1968, Grosvenor Square – that’s where the protest should be made

vietnam comic

The opposition to the Vietnam War in Britain had begun as early as 1953 when a communist sympathizer, Commander Edgar Young, formed the British–Vietnam Committee (BVC) and began publishing the Vietnam Bulletin. The CND – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – also raised Vietnam as part of their protests. CND’s position sought to strengthen the United Nations’ role in the conflict for the ‘implementation of the 1954 Geneva agreements’ and ‘the holding of national elections in north and south Vietnam’.

In 1962 the BVC held a rally with 70 protesters outside the US embassy in London. The movement grew in intensity after the US began bombing North Vietnam and introduced ground troops in February 1965, sparking protest demonstrations at universities around the country and the formation of the Communist Party dominated British Council for Peace in Vietnam (BCPV) in April 1965. The British Council for Peace in Vietnam (BCPV) that was set up by a group of people close to CND had been the main campaign groups that addressed the Vietnam War until the mid-1960s.

Under its president Labour MP Fenner Brockway, the BCPV called for a negotiated settlement and British dissociation through a concerted poster and newspaper campaign.

The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell was an early campaigner on Vietnam, tearing up his Labour Party membership card in disgust at the failure of Labour to take an independent stand on Vietnam. More importantly Russell used his connections and money for a new initiative in support of the Vietnamese people.

The first formal call to the British Left for the setting up of a solidarity campaign came on 20 December 1965, in a special public meeting of nearly 200 people organised by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the founding of the National Liberation Front.

why vietnam solidaritywhy-vietnam-solidarity [text]

“On the platform of this boisterous affair were Ken Coates, Mark Lane, an American, well-known on both sides of the Atlantic for his writing about the Kennedy assassination, and Ralph Miliband, who along with John Saville, had just begun publishing the Socialist Register.  Miliband’s presence on the platform was significant in that he represented an important segment of the new left.” [i]

Founding the solidarity movement

The founding conference of the VSC took place on 4-5 June1966 in Mahatma Gandhi Hall in London. Over 200 delegates that included a number from Labour Party constituencies, Labour Party Young Socialist groups and a few trade union branches. Notably over 40% of delegates came from several Maoist groups led by Manchanda, editor of the West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian News.

The group, around the Nottingham journal “The Week” who were IMG Trotskyites, had a narrow majority at the 1966 VSC conference. They believed that the South Vietnam NLF was not a revolutionary organisation, refused to endorse the four-point programme of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the five-point programme of the South Vietnam Front for Liberation. They characterised the government of North Vietnam as “Stalinist”. One did not have to be a great theoretician to work out that their chairmanship of the founding conference of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign might lead to a walk-out.

Manchanda, who had foreseen such an eventuality had booked another hall nearby where the conference was reconvened immediately. Chinese observers from the embassy and the Hsinhua news agency, the Vietnamese News Agency journalists resident in London who were the unofficial ambassadors of the country in London, representatives of solidarity groups in Asia, Africa, Haiti, the Caribbean, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Switzerland. All the African Liberation Movement delegates who were in the pro-Chinese camp, including the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, SWAPO and ZANU, walked out together. The CPGB and other pro-Soviet groups remained with the Trotskyist-dominated meeting.

The two organisation had been created in 1966, both emerging from the same conference.

Manchanda has often been reviled in leftist gossip and blamed for splitting the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign. Unfortunately, not many of people who repeat this story correctly remember the circumstances.[ii] In a statement explaining their actions, Manchanda emphasised the political support given to the National Liberation Front,

“We found ourselves in a position of being unable to participate in the conference when a faction sought to impose on the movement a set of aims which were contrary to the views expressed by Lord Russell in his opening statement to the conference and as agreed previously in the Preparatory Committee. “We, as always, dearly wish to co-operate with all those who desire to see a successful conclusion to the just struggle of the Vietnamese people, which can only end in complete victory for the National Liberation Front, the sole representative of the people of Vietnam. “At the same time, we must resolutely oppose all those who refuse to accept the programme of the Vietnamese people as the only basis for waging a successful campaign for solidarity in Britain, and so contributing to the inevitable victory of the Vietnamese people and a just and lasting peace.[iii]

Leading VSC member Ernest Tate observed,

“Their exit, though not unexpected, came as quite an astonishing turn of events when it actually happened. Still, the conference remained in session and went on to adopt a series of proposals to take the campaign forward.”[iv]

On that day two organisation in solidarity with the Vietnamese emerged: Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (Trotskyist-led, the IMG’s Black Dwarf newspaper, on Carlisle Street, offering temporary staff headquarters) and the Britain-Vietnam Solidarity Front (Maoist-led based at Manchanda’s house).

Britain-Vietnam Solidarity Front

Initially the smaller BVSF was less prominent than the dominant VSC, and the BVSF did not really function at all until the beginning of 1968. By the year of the great mass demonstrations against US imperialism, the Britain Vietnam Solidarity Front had grown into a national organisation with strong international links. Their national conference, according to the BVSF Bulletin, Summer 1968, was “attended by 34 delegates from London, the Midlands, North and South England as well as 14 fraternal delegates and 12 observers from the Republic of Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Mozambique, Kenya, Azania and Malaya … Telegraphic messages were received from Afro-American leader Robert F. Williams …. the South Vietnam Peace Committee and the Federation of Trade Unions of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”bvsf bulletin

The main organisation to express unqualified support for the Vietnamese people’s struggle and for the NLF, was the Britain-Vietnam Solidarity Front (BVSF). Manchanda and others  attacked the Communist Party [CPGB] position that followed the Moscow line of promoting peace talks.

“If the Vietnamese people refuse to ‘negotiate’ and submit to the aggressor, then there is a danger of a world nuclear holocaust – as some people put it ‘a single spark can lead to a world conflagration’ (Krushchev). Hence, not only the people of Vietnam, but the whole world, is being asked to submit to the nuclear blackmail of US imperialism. That for the sake of world peace, the independence of Vietnam is expendable.”

Anything other than victory to the NLF was seen as denying the self-determination of the Vietnamese people. As it was argued in a Britain Vietnam Solidarity leaflet:

“Using the slogan ‘Peace in Vietnam’ is in fact demanding that the Vietnamese people give up their struggle for the independence of their country. It implies racial arrogance, denying the people of colour of Vietnam the same right to defend themselves and their homes that is accepted for white North Americans and Europeans.”

Interviewing Manchanda  in his bed-sitter in Hampstead Mary McCarthy records,

“He explained with patience the doctrinal differences between them. It was a question of correct slogans about the Vietnamese war. For a long time, the Trotskyists of the Vietnamese Solidarity Campaign had refused the slogan “Victory for the NLF,” on the ground that the NLF, a coalition of a number of class elements, had a bourgeois nationalist complexion; their slogan was “Support for the Vietnamese Revolution,” i.e., for a non-existent phenomenon. Similarly with the Maoist slogan, “Long Live Ho Chi Minh,” rejected by the Trotskyists on the ground that Ho had betrayed the revolution at Geneva in 1954, also that he exemplified the cult of personality and was a “bureaucrat.” “If Ho is a bureaucrat,” observed Mr. Manchanda, with glee, “I wish we had more bureaucrats in this country.”[v]

March 17, 1968: Vietnam War comes to London as demonstration turns violent

It began with the marches assembling in orderly fashion with an estimated crowd of around 80,000 gathering in Trafalgar Square to protest against American action in Vietnam and the British government’s support for the United States. This was an immense upsurge in support and activism. Vietnam became an issue, an important expression of the youth radicalisation of those years. The previous VSC demonstration in London on 2 July 1967 attracted 5,000 protesters and resulted in thirty-one arrests after clashes with the authorities.[vi] One participation saw momentum building for the campaign:

The demonstration of October 22nd 1967, however, went better than we expected. The numbers were not fantastic, perhaps a couple of thousand, but there was a militant spirit; we took over the streets, in contrast to the marching 4 abreast and stop at traffic lights of the CND. Turning into Grosvenor Square we found that the police had put a cordon diagonally across part of the road, creating a restriction. This caused some pushing and shoving, but the march was moving on. The park in the square was surrounded by a box hedge which in those days was only about two feet high, and was guarded by only a thin line of police. I jumped over the hedge and ran into the park. A policeman chased me but soon stopped and turned back to see that the rest of the marchers were pouring through the gap he had left. We had nearly an hour of confrontation. I got as far as the parking meters just outside the US Embassy building before being pursued by a policeman charging on horseback. Eventually enough police arrived to push us out of the square. Militant opposition to the war was front page news and the activist layer was greatly energised.[vii]

Bruce Robinson at Trafalgar Square described the scene,

“The Square is full of the flags of the National Liberation Front (the “Vietcong”), who, only weeks previously had launched the Tet Offensive that had taken a largely rural guerilla war into the cities of Vietnam, getting as far as the gates of the US Embassy in the capital Saigon. Someone throws red dye into the fountains to symbolise the blood shed in the war.”[viii]

There they heard speeches from the likes of Tariq Ali, leader of the UK’s Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, and British actress Vanessa Redgrave, who announced that they would be delivering a letter of protest to the US embassy. The pair then led around 8,000 protesters to Grosvenor Square. Near the front a contingent from the German SDS, with arms linked chant, “Victory to the NLF”, “Hey, Hey LBJ [US President Johnson], how many kids have you killed today?” and, in honour of leader of North Vietnam, “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh” — accompanied by jogging up and down.

Redgrave’s group was allowed through to deliver the letter, but the crowd was held back and then refused to back off.

Bruce Robinson recalled,

Reaching Grosvenor Square, they found the US embassy surrounded by hundreds of police, standing shoulder to shoulder in a vast cordon. The front of the march heads through the police cordon and privet hedges and makes for the Embassy, meeting lines of police with arms linked. Waves follow pressing harder. From two other sides of the square, lots more police, including horses, randomly lay into anyone they can, even those watching from the sidelines. Stones, earth, firecrackers and smoke bombs were thrown as mounted police officers were called in to disperse the crowd.battle ground

By the time order was restored some four hours later, there were over 250 arrests and over 50 protesters and 25 police officers had been hospitalised.

The ‘Punch Up’

It is wrong to say the violence on the streets of London knew no precedent [ix]– for a start that would displays a shocking lack of knowledge about the protests of the 1930s – but it did shocked the watching public reading the lurid press coverage. Majorie Holt for the VSC referred to the March 17th events in Vietnam Solidarity Campaign Bulletin 13 (published in April1968):

“V.S.C. has been subject to a great deal of criticism, in the press and from organisations who have “come along with us” about the militancy of Sunday’s demonstrations. On the issue of Vietnam it is obvious that all other protest channels have reached an impasse, since enormous numbers of people ( particularly the young) have joined our already massive backing. We have, since October 22nd, made it clear that the V.S.C. Ad hoc Committee is an umbrella movement, covering all shades of opinion and protest. Nobody is compelled or expected to support militancy – all that is necessary if violence breaks out is for those who disapprove to retire from the scene!”

As Diane Langford pointed out….Tariq, Robin Blackburn and others were whistling The Red Flag in Hyde Park while the battle raged outside the lair of American imperialism, the Grosvenor Square embassy.[x]

All this was documented in a contemporaneous article, by Mary McCarthy who judged that “The Trotskyites, in slogans and stance to the “left” of the Maoists, in practice were to the right of them. The Maoists, generally thought of as inflexible revolutionary extremists, showed pragmatic wisdom and adaptability. The style of Tariq Ali was radical; the style of Mr. Manchanda was modest petty bourgeois, recalling the home lives of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky himself.”

With the increase of violence and Tariq Ali’s declared intentions to invade the American Embassy ‘for as long as the Vietcong held the American Embassy in Saigon,’[xi] condemnation of the VSC and student activism was widely publicised by the press. Newspapers were declaring that ‘this kind of thing has to be stopped’ [xii] and The Times redistributed their crime reporters to maximise coverage for the 27 October 1968 demonstration taking place in London. The establishment used a hysterical media campaign focusing on the threat of bloodshed and revolution to combat the escalating support for demonstrations.

According to Tariq Ali, however, ‘never at any stage did anyone seriously involved in VSC imagine that the October demonstrations would be anything more than a show of the anti-imperialist left’s strength. But the establishment embarked on a campaign of black propaganda and disinformation. They did it for two reasons: to isolate the march from the bulk of the population by raising the fear of violence, and because they over-reacted, panicked after May (Paris 1968). France shook the ruling classes throughout Europe, and the British decided to take no chances that the disease would spread. Hence their ferocious attacks on VSC and on me personally.’[xiii]

21st July Demonstration

July 21st March on the embassy is less well remembered than the VSC organised demonstrations. It began as an initative of the Young Communist League in an attempt to tap into the growth of militant student action in the UK. In inviting various groups to join them in forming a broad committee to organise a demonstration in London on July 21, they intended to head the coalition and secure support for a Communist Party plan to send bikes to Vietnam via a forthcoming Communist Festival in Bulgaria. But the plans back-fired when they failed to get a majority on the July 21 Committee. Organisations such as the BVSF, Folk Singers for Freedom in Vietnam, and the Internationalists secured a majority on the Committee and adopted a line of policy and slogans giving complete support to the NLF and calling for victory against imperialist aggression. This went against the negotiation line of the Communist Party and the YCL leaders pulled out of the ’July 21 Committee for Solidarity with Vietnam’. In the tradition of the Left, the YCL went on to form their own similarly named committee.

The Britain Vietnam Solidarity Front had emerged as a new force to be reckoned with and played an important part in mobilising militants through the genuine ’July 21 Committee for Solidarity with Vietnam’.

Following the July 21 demonstration, plans were made by the VSC for the big march on October 27. The October 27 Ad Hoc Committee initially decided that the march would be organised under the slogan ’Victory to the Vietnamese Revolution’ and that it should not go to the US Embassy. The BVSF was excluded from the Ad Hoc Committee. The three main organisations which were finally represented in the Ad Hoc Committee were the International Socialists (IS), the International Marxist Group (IMG) and the Young Communist League (YCL).

On the initiative of the BVSF, another Committee was formed – the ’27 October Committee for Solidarity with Vietnam’, which began to plan for a parallel march aimed at demonstrating outside the US Embassy. During the weeks prior to October 27, press, radio and TV devoted more space and time to the forthcoming event than they had to anything similar for many years. The BVSF was singled out as a dangerous firebrand bunch of fanatics whose only purpose was to rush into a punch up with the police. The Trotskyist-Revisionist Troika at the head of the Ad Hoc Committee for the round-London ramble helped out by labelling the BVSF as disruptionist and adventurist. [xiv]

So two co-existent marches occurred on October 27th: the VSC inspired “Ah Hoc Committee via Downing Street, and the ’27 October Committee for Solidarity with Vietnam’, which plan for a parallel march aimed at demonstrating outside the US Embassy.

Several weeks before October 27 a sharp controversy had developed about the target of the demonstration – whether or not the march should go to the US Embassy. Despite the bravo headline of Black Dwarft – “We shall fight, we shall win, London, Paris, Rome, Berlin” – McCarty accurately described the perception of many observers, not only on the far left:

“Tariq Ali, ……………..Having attacked Grosvenor Square in March, he did not wish to “repeat himself” in October, for the only way of topping the previous performance there would be by a heightening of violence. Hence he spoke of Grosvenor Square as “a death trap,” to which he was unwilling to commit his followers. De-escalation, according to this reasoning, then became inevitable—a change of pace and direction, to Downing Street and Hyde Park, rather than to the US Embassy, and in disciplined, orderly formation, instead of in fighting salients.”

Mary McCarthy thought Tariq Ali

“ was thinking, clearly, in terms of showmanship…. Moreover, in his concentration on the manner of the demonstration, he lost sight of the matter: the US war in Vietnam.”[xv]

This demonstration was the subject of more advance press and television publicity than any similar event for years. It was a media drama, Tariq Ali, a young mustached Pakistani, leading the way to Downing Street, and Abhimanya Manchanda, a middle-aged clean-shaven Indian, to Grosvenor Square. The general impression was created that on October 27 London was to see a repetition if not of the student uprising in Paris, then certainly of the fighting in Berlin.

The observation of fellow Maoists from the JCC on the October 27th march 1968 noted the media hype around the protest. [xvi]

“For weeks previously the newspapers had been preparing their readers for the big day with stories of conspiracies and intrigues involving the occupation or destruction of buildings, bomb plots, and plans for the total disruption of communications in London. Special TV programs were devoted to ’The October Revolutionaries’” .

A Metropolitan Police Special Branch report noted,

During the early planning stages of this demonstration it was apparent that the question of the use of calculated violence as a political weapon was causing division in the ranks of the V.S.C members. The Maoists felt that violence was inevitable and said so. The more cautious representatives of the International Socialism and International Marxist groups paid lip service to the vision of a peaceful demonstration. In the event the Maoists did not gain any places on the National Council or the national ad-hoc committee, and are outpaced as apostles of violence by the more volatile anarchists. All the indications are that the Maoists and anarchists will disregard any sort of instructions – from Police or march leaders – and take an independent line on the day.[xvii]

The American author, Mary McCarty touched on this subject in her long piece for the press:

“On the issue of violence vs. non-violence, there did not seem to be a real theoretical difference. The Manchanda group had been described in the newspapers as favoring violence, and the Tariq Ali group not, but actually Tariq Ali was organizing dramatically for violence—that list of first-aid stations, the instructions published in The Black Dwarf on what to do when gassed—on the supposition, amounting to prophecy, that the police would start or “provoke” it, whereas Mr. Manchanda, when I asked him whether it was true that he planned to storm the US Embassy, shrugged and said simply, “We are too few.” In Grosvenor Square, the next day, a lilting voice I thought I recognized as his could be heard urging restraint on the crowd, though possibly this was merely pro forma. “

Mary McCarty’s recollection was similar to that of Diane Langford’s experience upon entering Grosvenor Square:

When we reached the US Embassy the police were waiting, riot shields poised. Horses were snorting and steaming and we felt the terrifying thunder of hooves resonate under our feet. Mounted police were waving batons and, as the crowd poured into the square, we came face to face with a wall of shields and sticks. Charge after charge was launched, the police lashing out with furious, twisted faces. Batons connected with heads, blood poured. A lilting voice I recognised as Manchanda’s was calling, ‘Don’t be provoked! Remain calm.’ [xviii]

The attitude of those Marxist-Leninists who participated in the October 27 demonstration was that a genuine demonstration of solidarity with the Vietnamese people’s struggle should concentrate its main attack on the main enemy -US imperialism. Therefore the main target of the demonstration could only be the US Embassy in London.

“Tariq Ali is a revisionist playboy who’s planning to take people on a guided tour of the West End and into Hyde Park. The lair of U.S. imperialism is the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square and that’s where the protest should be made.”    

 Manchanda –

 

October 27 1968: Police clash with anti-war protesters

Mike Martin remembers: There was so much publicity in the media for what was billed as the “October Revolution” that there was little incentive to campaign; after all the Evening Standard carried a centre spread showing the route. … We did what we said we would and marched on the agreed route*1. There was no violence apart from having to deal with a group of fascists who tried to attack the platform. Meanwhile, the Maoists had their fight in Grosvenor Square. The day was something of an anticlimax especially for anyone who took the “revolution” hype seriously[xix]

 ‘Street Power’: Briefing to all demonstrators, 1968  street power

Advice to marchers from the October 27 Ad Hoc Committee. An earlier demonstration against the Vietnam War, on 17 March 1968, had led to violence outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London. The 27 October demonstration was mostly peaceful but very heavily policed.

“wait until they left”

The breakaway group led by the Maoist Britain-Vietnam Solidarity Front was almost thwarted by the march organisers who were aware of the plan and feared violence would erupt. Ernie Tate of the VSC recalled the plans in hand to counter the BVSC and ensure the large majority were persuaded to march from the Charing Cross Embankment on a roundabout route via Whitehall, to Hyde Park:

We took action to ensure that the ultra-left would not try and divert everyone to the American Embassy. We placed recognized leaders – myself included — immediately behind the ultra-left contingent. Tariq Ali played an invaluable role here. When they made their move at Trafalgar Square to head towards the American Embassy, we simply turned around and stopped the demonstration and let the Maoists and their friends head off and Tariq took up a megaphone to explain what was happening to those behind us. The ultra-left and anarchists hesitated a little while and began yelling insults at us, but we told the people around us to wait until they left. I estimate they took around 5000 people..”[xx]

hqdefault

The protesters had broken away but were confronted by a wall of police. Security for the march was high. A thousand-strong team of police was stationed outside the US Embassy and policemen lined the route of the march with back-up following in coaches.

Petition to Downing Street

The rest of the march, which was organised by the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, continued peacefully to Hyde Park. On route, Tariq Ali, the head of the VSC, handed in a 75,000-signature petition to 10 Downing Street to ask the government to stop supporting the U.S. in its war against Vietnam.

A record from contemporary newsreel of the demonstration:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/vietnam-demonstrations-1 [xxi]

———————

Once in Grovesnor Square the protesters formed a human chain and charged at the police wall but failed to break through. McCarty recalled “the pushing and shoving and squeezing, which occurred whenever a charge of demonstrators was driven back into the square or into South Audley Street or when the police, having yielded ground, surged forward in a double wedge. At those moments I was conscious of a fear, for us all, of being crushed or trampled”[xxii]

Clashes continued for around three hours, with some of the violent protesters throwing stones, fireworks and other objects. But the 1,000 officers on guard, who included mounted police, were able to hold back the protestors led by the Maoist Britain-Vietnam Solidarity Front, and, after hours of stalemate, they all dispersed. Was it true the police joining the demonstrators in singing “Auld Lang Syne” as they prepared to call it a night?

Afterwards

In the event, October 27th was a successful anti-climax: successful in terms of numbers and atmosphere, but an anti-climax in that it was ultimately just a demonstration and none of the political problems had been dealt with.

Following the October 27th demonstration, the editorial of Vietnam Solidarity Campaign Bulletin 19 (published November 1968) in a piece of political spin, stated:

“The demonstration on October 27th represents a sweeping vindication of the work of our campaign, and a significant contribution to the world-wide movement of support to the fighting people of Vietnam…….the fact the demonstration did not become a riot was due to the fact that the authorities conceded our right to occupy the whole street unhindered.”

However, there were more sanguine judgements carried by those who rightly saw the march as marking a critical time for the campaign, pointing out that “it was hoped that prior to the demonstration new people would be involved in …political preparation for the demonstration. This failed to materialise in any significant degree. …our aim to provide an alternative view of Oct.27th to that disseminated by the news media, has proved largely illusory.”  And there were complaints regarding the “bureaucratic nature of the VSC organisation and the gulf which separates the organisation and the mass support it has”.  Political  opposition to the VSC positions had been expressed by the existence of the BVSF. [xxiii]

The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign declined rapidly, reviving as at the time of the invasion of Cambodia in 1970. The single issue protest cannot continue indefinitely mobilising people on issues without giving them a political perspective and linking them to the social forces that can make their aspirations reality. Otherwise, no matter how large, militant or imaginative, they will drift away.

Coverage of the events of that October 27th created further antagonism towards student activists, and enthusiasm for protest diminished from 1968 onwards with the London demonstration on 16 March 1969 only managing to attract 4,000 protesters. The memorial meeting called for Ho Chi Minh, who died in October 1969 saw its end as an active coalition. Chris Harman of IS pointed out Uncle HO had been responsible for the massacre of the Vietnamese Trotskyists in the nineteen forties. The Communist Party and official North Vietnamese speakers left the platform, and Bob Purdie of the IMG, a different variant Trotskyist group, declined to support Harman when he spoke next.

The collapse of movements that had been focal points in the course of ‘68 was not unique to Britain. The peak of mobilising significant numbers was recognised at the time. But the experience had energised a new generation of activists, Phil Hearse put this growth into context :

One has to have a sense of proportion however. The Communist Party had around 30,000 members still (with about 5000 in the Young Communist League), despite the trauma of the Hungarian 1956 revolution, which saw thousands of its activists leave. By contrast the SLL at around 300 members was much bigger than the other revolutionary groups, but only because these groups were tiny. IS, later the SWP, had only a few dozen members and their leader, Tony Cliff would say they could have the annual conference in his front room.[xxiv]  

It was the International Socialists led by Tony Cliff who recruited most successfully from the VSC according to Tarqi Ali. IS went from 450 in 1967 to over 1,000 by the end of 1968, in contrast, the IMG, which was much closer to the common student-oriented politics of the year and was also central to the VSC, grew much more slowly until later in 1970.

On the far left there were other divisions than just the radical Maoist opposition.[xxv] While fellow Trotskyists in The Militant organisation remain stubbornly in its Labour Party grove aloof from the VSC but still selling papers on the sidelines, Gerry Healy’s Socialist Labour League distributed a leaflet, Why we are not marching, to the Vietnam demo on October 27th; Because the march was, they claimed, just a stunt to distract attention from the SLL,

“The Socialist Labour League refuses…to participate in the demonstration. Our task is to direct all young workers and students towards serious consideration for the theory and role of Trotskyism and the Fourth International towards the building of the revolutionary party.”

 

The BVSF itself went into decline. Behind the BVSF was the small maoist group led by Manchanda, the Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist League. In quick successions two separate groups of activists were to break away and added to the Maoist constellation of small planets in London[xxvi]. As Sam Richards made a common observation that [xxvii]    

“the RMLL working in the BVSF had confused the single issue campaign with the wider strategic task of building a revolutionary party. Such solidarity activity was treating the broad front as the party organisation. Such an approach was seen repeated again as with the INSLF, North London Alliance and other occasions as the movement learnt how to work more appropriately and effectively in the broad movement and amongst the working class and people.”

The BVSF saw common errors in the work of the young activists particularly the sectarianism evident in the policy statement of the BVSF, which pledged the organisation to fight for the ‘unity of the whole working class in defence of their living standards and democratic rights and in their struggle for social advance’. This, a commitment appropriate to a revolutionary party of the British working class, reflected the confusion about what constituted a broad front organisation of solidarity with the people of Vietnam. There were lessons about Left Sectarianism to be learnt as The Marxist noted:

The statements produced by the BVSF are all too frequently written in a heavy-handed cliche- ridden style which is of no use to convinced Marxist-Leninists and frankly unintelligible to the broad mass of people for whom the statements are presumably intended….. Such a writing style either reflects or can lead to a sectarian working style…. Perhaps the worst example to date of what we mean is to be found in the October 1968 Bulletin of BVSF which was distributed on the march. One article in this bulletin has a full headline which reads ’YCL Revisionist Leaders Unmasked as Police Agents and Stooges of US imperialism’.

People cannot be won if they are not permitted to develop in struggle, but are simply told: “We are correct, join us.” We must instead show how we are correct both through concrete work and by drawing correct conclusions from this work. Winning people to our position does not mean their passive acquiescence, but rather their lively participation. Marxism-Leninism cannot be learned by rote.

As the Joint Committee of Communists later explained:

The ‘Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist League’, for a short time a member group of the JCC, attempted to promote a strategy built solely around the issues of the national liberation struggle in Vietnam. Primarily because of its petty-bourgeois base it was (and is) unable to build up links with the working class or in any way develop the internal contradiction between Labour and Capital on which the proletarian revolution in Britain will be based. It also epitomised the ‘leftist’ error of which Lin Piao reminds us: that is, one-sidedly pursuing struggle’ to the exclusion of ‘unity’.

* *

Ironically, in 2008, when it was announced that the US embassy was withdrawing from its central London fortress, moving to south of the river in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth  , Tarqi Ali suggested ” When it finally happens, Grosvenor Square veterans should make sure there is a properly organised wake with proper music, etc. They should be sent off in style. Old memories must not be obliterated. ”

He did not remind people that it was Manchanda, not Tarqi Ali who argued that

“The lair of U.S. imperialism is the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square and that’s where the protest should be made.”

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/oct/03/usa.foreignpolicy

 

ENDNOTES

[i] Ernest Tate, Building the VSC. Delivered at the Left Before 1968 conference, organised at UEA by the Socialist History Society and the University of East Anglia Department of History, February 13/ 14, 2016

[ii] Diane Langford & Claudia Manchanda. Letter to Marika Sherwood (2000) https://dianelangford.wordpress.com/

[iii] “The following is a statement CONCERNING THE VIETNAM SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN issued by all those who found it necessary to walk out from the conference called on June 4-5, 1966, at the Mahatma Gandhi Hall, Fitzroy Square, London W.1. to launch a Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in Britain……………..”

[iv] Ibid. Ernest Tate, Building the VSC.

[v] Mary McCarthy, Letter from London: The Demo .The New York Review of Books, Volume 11, Number 11 · December 19, 1968 reproduced at http://abhimanyumanchandaremembered.weebly.com/vietnam-solidarity.html

[vi] VSC Bulletin, July-August 1967, no. 6, p.1

[vii]  Mike Martin. A short account of the International Marxist Group

https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/guest-post-a-short-account-of-the-international-marxist-group/

[viii] Bruce Robinson, 1968: Vietnam solidarity and the British left

http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/03/20/1968-vietnam-solidarity-and-british-left

[ix] See: Clive Bloom, Violent London: 2000 Years of Riots, Rebels and Revolts 2010

[x] Diane Langford, Letter to The Observer 4th October, 1998

[xi]  The Sun, 19 March 1968, p. 16

[xii] Daily Mail, 19 March 1968, p. 6

[xiii] R. Fraser, 1968: A Student Generation in Revolt, p. 279

[xiv] The Vietnam Movement: Report from Glasgow Communist Movement and South West London Marxist-Leninist Group. The Marxist, Vol. 1, No. 9, Spring 1969.

[xv] Mary McCarthy, Letter from London: The Demo .The New York Review of Books, Volume 11, Number 11 · December 19, 1968 reproduced at http://abhimanyumanchandaremembered.weebly.com/vietnam-solidarity.html

[xvi]  The Vietnam Movement: Report from Glasgow Communist Movement and South West London Marxist-Leninist Group. The Marxist, Vol. 1, No. 9, Spring 1969.

[xvii] Metropolitan Police Special Branch, Vietnam Solidarity campaign “Autumn Offensive” Reference to papers 346/68/15 (2) 10th day of September 1968

http://www.isg-fi.org.uk/spip.php?article637

James Callaghan, Home Secretary in 1968, later admitted that the 17 March demonstration caught the police totally unprepared. In an interview for Peter Taylor’s BBC documentary ‘True Spies’, one Special Branch officer remembered: ‘We had no training at all for demonstrations. We were just bussed in in a coach, didn’t know what we were going to do; no preparation for it whatsoever’. Echoing this, another noted: ‘We underestimated how many were coming. We were ill-equipped at the time and couldn’t bring enough men in to control it consequently when the violence erupted. We were amateurs then’.

http://specialbranchfiles.uk/vietnam-war-story/

[xviii] Diane Langford, The Manchanda Connection July 2015 https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.secondwave/langford.pdf

[xix] Mike Martin. A short account of the International Marxist Group

https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/guest-post-a-short-account-of-the-international-marxist-group/

[xx] http://www.isg-fi.org.uk/spip.php?article637

[xxi] A British Pathe newsreel shows the beginning of the march in Trafalgar Square, where peace activists, including actress Vanessa Redgrave, assembled. And the reporter claimed that among them were “trouble maker” and filmed those with bushy beards carrying anarchist and communist flags. Then, in a smoke-filled Grosvenor Square, police were shown tacking to the ground and carrying away some protesters amid a hail of noise and firework missiles. In the streets surrounding the square fireworks and other missiles were thrown but no injuries were caused and police considered them to be isolated incidents. Some of the 117 policemen injured during the clashes were also filmed being stretchered away.

[xxii] Mary McCarthy, Letter from London: The Demo .The New York Review of Books, Volume 11, Number 11 · December 19, 1968 reproduced at http://abhimanyumanchandaremembered.weebly.com/vietnam-solidarity.html

[xxiii] Vietnam Solidarity Campaign Bulletin 19 published November 1968

[xxiv] Phil Hearse, The crystallisation of a new militant left. Delivered at the Left Before 1968 conference

[xxv] Points made by Ian Birchall in Against the Grain, the British far left from 1956 p201

[xxvi] The Association of Communist Workers, launched in 1969 and led by Harpal Brar and Edward Davoren, who in August 1969 went on to lead the Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front that had at its core the Communist Workers League of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) that publicly emerged in 1972-73.

https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.secondwave/index.htm

[xxvii] Sam Richards, The Rise & Fall of Maoism: the English Experience

https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.secondwave/uk-maoism.pdf

 

EYES LEFT

woodsmoke

“Ultra-Left”, “Far Left”, “Political fringe”, “sectarian extremists” – those politically drawn to the edge suffer spirited polemics and insult – a tawdry political re-enactment society –   occasional academic interest and rare media scrutiny usually hyped up by right-wing “Reds Under the Beds” coverage [ as in this pamphlet from aims-of-industry-reds-under-the-bed] (so stop reading the Daily Mail).

A characteristic critical observation is the “habit of believing a significant and meaniful contribution has been made to the solution of a problem by stating what would be a desirable result without relation to the existing situation and balance of class forces.”

That comment voiced by Betty Reid, stalwart of the revisionist Communist Party of Great Britain [damn, illustrating my leftist tendencies there, should have removed the adjective].

For those with a nostalgic interest in the Far left in Britain she is instantly recognised as the author of a Communist Party pamphlet, Ultra Leftism in Britain published wayback in 1969. The CP was reticent in acknowledging other forces on the Left as its hegemonic hold unravelled, so this was a rare foray into “publicising” political lines it disagreed with. Polemical exchange, or attacks upon others, was common place on the political left and often entertaining to read the flawed reasoning and positions in political lines that were opposed to one’s own, like when reading the daily newspapers. So Reid’s populist discussion of the plethora of Trotskyist tendencies, anarchist and syndicalist groups, with passing mention of the Maoists but not, if memory serves, of the Socialist Party of Great Britain- one of the oldest of the fringe – provides a sketch of the far left landscape of the day. [Copy of her pamphlet here Reid 1969]

What stimulated this search of the bookshelves?

News of the forthcoming Waiting for the Revolution: The British Far Left from 1956 from Manchester University Press.

Contents

Introduction: The continuing importance of the history of the British far left – Evan Smith and Matthew Worley

1 Revolutionary vanguard or agent provocateur: students and the far left on English university campuses, c. 1970-90 – Jodi Burkett

2 Not that serious? The investigation and trial of the Angry Brigade, 1967-72 – J. D. Taylor 3 Protest and survive: the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Labour Party and civil defence in the 1980s – Jacquelyn Arnold

4 Anti-apartheid solidarity in the perspectives and practices of the British far left in the 1970s and ’80s – Gavin Brown

5 ‘The Merits of Brother Worth’: the International Socialists and life in a Coventry car factory, 1968-75 – Jack Saunders

6 Making miners militant? The Communist Party of Great Britain in the National Union of Mineworkers, 1956-85 – Sheryl Bernadette Buckley

7 Networks of solidarity: the London left and the 1984-85 miners’ strike – Diarmaid Kelliher

8 ‘You have to start where you’re at’: politics and reputation in 1980s Sheffield – Daisy Payling

9 Origins of the present crisis? The emergence of ‘left-wing’ Scottish nationalism, 1956-79 – Rory Scothorne and Ewan Gibbs

10 A miner cause? The persistence of left nationalism in postwar Wales – Daryl Leeworthy

11 The British radical left and Northern Ireland during ‘the Troubles’ – Daniel Finn

12 The point is to change it: a short account of the Revolutionary Communist Party – Michael Fitzpatrick

13 The Militant Tendency and entrism in the Labour Party – Christopher Massey

14 Understanding the formation of the Communist Party of Britain – Lawrence Parker

Eye-watering academic price for the hardback, but a previous volume edited by Evan Smith and Matthew Worley is now available in paperback. Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956 claimed to be the first general history of the British far left to be published in the 21st century.

Contents

Introduction: The far left in Britain from 1956 – Evan Smith and Matthew Worley
PART I: Movements

1. Engaging with Trotsky: the influence of Trotskyism in Britain – John Callaghan

2. The New Left: beyond Stalinism and social democracy? – Paul Blackledge

3. Narratives of radical lives: the roots of 1960s activism and the making of the British left – Celia Hughes

4. Marching separately, seldom together: the political history of two principal trends in British Trotskyism, 1945-2009 – Phil Burton-Cartledge

5. Opposition in slow motion: the CPGB’s ‘anti-revisionists’ in the 1960s and 1970s 98 – Lawrence Parker

6. Dissent from dissent: the ‘Smith/Party’ Group in the 1970s CPGB – Andrew Pearmain

7. British anarchism in the era of Thatcherism – Rich Cross
PART II: Issues

8. Jam tomorrow? Socialist women and Women’s Liberation, 1968-82: an oral history approach – Sue Bruley

9. Something new under the sun: the revolutionary left and gay politics – Graham Willett 10. ‘Vicarious pleasure’? The British far left and the third world, 1956-79 – Ian Birchall

11. Anti-racism and the socialist left, 1968-79 – Satnam Virdee

12. Red Action – left-wing pariah: some observations regarding ideological apostasy and the discourse of proletarian resistance – Mark Hayes

13. Anti-fascism in Britain, 1997-2012 – David Renton
 

Something for everyone, illustrating the ideological variety, splintered nature and issues that consumed the political activists of Britain’s far left. So Waiting for the Revolution is not quite a sequel to Against the Grain, but volume two of more an ongoing work-in-progress.

Already the dedicated work of Marxist Internet Archive  with sites like ETOL, providing an On-Line Resource Center for the Study of the International Trotskyist Movement ,and the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line, providing a historical archive of information on and primary documents from the world-wide Anti-Revisionist Movements, there exist an extensive record of the far left , now supplemented with dedicated websites like these from the Trotskyist melee:

posadas

http://quatrieme-internationale-posadiste.org/EN/index.php

Established 1962, when J. Posadas and the Latin American Bureau of the 4th International broke from the international leadership of those days. The idea was to stay, on a one hand, faithful to the programmes and the aims of the organization that Trotsky had founded in 1938; and on the other hand, to participate fully in the organization of the new forces of the revolution. These appeared after the Second World War, through the triumph of the Soviet Union and the powerful development of the colonial revolution.

red moleThe Red Mole A modest contribution to the history of the Fourth International in Britain eg International Marxist Group variety.

https://redmolerising.wordpress.com/

sparts

formerly the International Spartacist Tendency

http://www.icl-fi.org/index.html

 

big flame logo   Big Flame were a Revolutionary Socialist Feminist founded in Liverpool in 1970, the group initially grew rapidly in the then prevailing climate on the left with branches appearing in a number of cities. They published a magazine, also entitled Big Flame, and a journal, Revolutionary Socialism. They also devoted a great deal of time to self-analysis and considering their relationship with the larger Trotskyist groups. In time, they came to describe their politics as “libertarian Marxist“. In 1978 they joined the Socialist Unity electoral coalition, with the International Marxist Group.

In 1980, the Libertarian Communist Group joined Big Flame. The Revolutionary Marxist Current also joined at about this time.  Big Flame was wound up in about 1984.

https://bigflameuk.wordpress.com/

And, again seeking to construct the 4th International:

Revolutionary Regroupment http://www.regroupment.org/main/page_home.html

There is certainly no end to the entertainment with enough material from such prolific publishers to stimulate further volumes in the history of the far left.

37. Remembering Ahmed Cheikh of African Dawn

Just as reading poetry is a poor substitute for a performance, these words cannot convey the warmth of personality, the optimism and energy that came from the person of Ahmed Cheikh. Cheikh was a Pan African activist poet who, best known as a cultural activist, contributed, as part of the Political Economy Study Group, to the first edition of Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement . Even in the cold London streets, his activism reached out as an African citizen of world against injustice. He helped found Black Action for the Liberation of Southern Africa (Balsa) which worked with the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania and the Pan-African Congress to break the stranglehold of Anti-Apartheid Movement’s sole recognition of the ANC, and supported the neglected, less fashionable struggles as in Eritrea.

He was principally known as a poet and founder member of the poetry and music collective African Dawn. They released a couple of LPs – African Dawn and Chimurenga – and were part of the development of a revolutionary solidarity culture throughout the 1980s and 1990s. A regular at the old Africa Centre in Covent Garden and ever present in social evenings to recite poetry accompanied by traditional African instruments played by “African Dawn”. He worked with other artists like the poet Pitika Ntuli – member of Pan African Congress – of Azania (South Africa) and when not at a solidarity evening or promoting art events and exhibitions, he was busy on the Poetry circuit,

Perhaps Cheikh’s best known political statement – calling it a poem does not convey the resonance it produced – always performed with gusto and empathy through his lyrical and sonorous performance, “Please do not call me South Afrika” was produced as a fund-raising poster by the RCLB who had published it in their paper.

 

Please Do Not Call Me South Afrika

I am Azania land of black folks Grain grown when stones were still as soft as butter. I am Azania land of Zenji Truth made redundant by the tyrant´s gang I am Azania I ran wild and free – I tamed iron long before the steel-ore plunderer came.

I have seen kingdoms rise I have seen kingdoms fall. I once stretched my hands up to the coast of Somalia. Deep deep by the great walls of Zimbabwe. There my name is entombed. I am Azania once land of hospitality.

I flung my arms to captain Diaz en Vasco da Gama for I thought them lost. We sang and ate, danced and laughed. I had plenty to give for I knew nothing of their design. Then one day, one infamous day in 1652, the treacherous seas belched forth. Three drunken ships at table bay Dromedaris, Reiger, Goede Hoep.

As dusk was inching We met We crushed. Their ribs into our Assegais my sons and daughters fell too, in a hail of settlers´ bullets. Battles of yesteryear are engraved in my memory. I praise you sons en daughters of Thaba Bosio, Isandlawane, Sandile´s Kap, Keiskamahoek, Bloodriver I praise you all.

I am Azania – land of Black folk. I bent but not break. My name it self – a platform and programme scattered the white mists over Kliptown. I am Azania Mangaliso Sobukwe heard my call – then there was Sharpeville. I am Azania the name reconcilled with itself in deeds of Bantu ka Biko

The name wrapt up a forest of black fists in Soweto. I am Azania – battered flesh in the Bantustans, Sturdy voices of Robben Island. I am Azania – the mind vintilates back its own breadth, sweat, tears en blood trapped in gold particles. I am Azania – mourn made murmuring murmuring made cry, cry made shriek, shriek drilling in the settlers´ears.

I am Azania – the feared black bull in the tomentors dreams. I am that black dot on the boers white history books. Black consciousness unbound only the pure I take for I have no time I am Azania land of ZENJI – burning truth churns the tyrants- gang truth made the dream and dream made the truth Please do not call me South Africa.

*

He was not only an exponent of revolutionary culture but also authored a study, David M.Diop: The Aesthetics of Liberation [Ahmed sheikh text], as part of the exploration of the tradition and politics of Orasture, the aesthetic of African creativity and its implications for black artists.

ahmed-cheikh.png

Ahmed Cheikh was born on 26 November 1954 and died 12 September 2009 in his home Town of Dakar, Senegal.

Families and friends of Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Gueye organized a memorial event in the Institute of Education, University of London on 28 November 2009. It was an event, featuring various artists and poets with traditional African instruments, reflecting his progressive ideas and development in revolutionary thought and spirit.

Petros Tesfagiorgis recalled the internationalism that characterised Chiekh’s solidarity with the plight of the people of Africa including the cause of Eritrea through music and poetry. In 1996, at the Municipality Hall of Asmara, Ahmed was on TV-ERE reciting poems in commemoration of Abdurrahman Babu (1924-1996) a leading African Maoist thinker and statesman from Tanzania.

“What was remarkable was that when Sheik was introduced to the audience, he stood gracefully tall in his long Senegalese robe looking at the audience silently for few seconds. He then opened his mouth by saying, “I am happy to be in liberated Eritrea and among my people”.

“He then looked straight into president Isaias’s eye – an invited guest himself- who was sitting in front row, and expressed his profound concern that African leaders get to power in the name of the people but forget their promise once they assume power; he said it with extreme seriousness as if he was reminding the President not to take that road. That was the beauty of Sheik, he does not compromise when it comes to the rights of the people. “

 

In his last recorded interview Cheikh talks about the role of Pan Africanism, socialism, and the responsibility of the artist.

He said, “Artists have a responsibility to shake things where they are dormant”. Through his internationalist reach and anti-imperialist consciousness, he lived up to that responsibility.

____________________________________________________________________________

 

Posting draws upon:

Petros Tesfagiorgis, Tribute to the late Sheik Ahmed of Senegal, a poet and a friend of Eritrea December 2009

http://asmarino.com/articles/458-tribute-to-the-late-sheik-ahmed-of-senegal-a-poet-and-a-friend-of-eritrea-and-x-mass-remembrance-of-all-prisoners-of-conscience.

In Memoriam: Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Gueye (26 Nov 1954 – 12 Sep 2009)

Posted on 21/05/2014 by theworkersdreadnought

https://theworkersdreadnought.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/in-memoriam-cheikh-ahmed-tidiane-gueye-26-nov-1954-12-sep-2009/

36. Just read…..

Dave Smith & Phil Chamberlain

Blacklisted: the secret war between Big Business and Union Activists

New Internationalist Publications. 2nd edition, 2016. ISBN 9781780263410   £9.99

____________________________________________________________________________

BlacklistedExposed, decades of denials, lies and deceit by construction companies as they blighted the lives, careers and families of tens of thousands of workers for objecting to deadly working conditions on the building sites around us.

Written both as a piece of investigative journalism and a testimony to the bitter struggle it provides personal accounts of resisting the vile practices of the Companies’ Human Resources as it lays bare the scale and persistence of the conspiracy detailing the role of large corporations, the state, the security services and police, and even the occasional trade union bureaucrat in the surveillance of a wide range of activists and through denial of work.

The victimised fought back.

The Blacklist Support Group’s determination and campaign eventually saw a High Court public apology  [found here] sweated out of major construction companies that acknowledged the role of the Economic League, the Services Group and the Consulting Association bankrolled to systematically gather information, maintain and use secret blacklisting against trade unionists and others.

It documents the collusion that was suspected by all involved in the industry, it names names drawing upon extracts from blacklisted files and maps out the scale and extensive practices that these companies wanted to be “their dirty little secret”.

35. People Defending Themselves

“Conservatives have done their utmost to portray trade unions and their members as ‘the enemy within’, introducing regressive anti-worker laws to stop people defending themselves,” said Len McCluskey, general-secretary of Unite. “That is not progress; it’s giving bad bosses a free ride.”

The comment was promoted by a press article that stated,

Strike levels were close to an all-time low last year as industrial relations between workers and bosses experience a new level of understanding, well according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. [Why changes to how we work mean the ‘bad old days’ of strikes may be gone by Alan Tovey, Industry Editor. Daily Telegraph 30 May 2017]

Official data from the Office for National Statistics [ONS] show that in 2016 a total of 322,000 working days were lost because of stoppages – the eighth-lowest figure since records began in 1891.

A strike is a last resort and work place militancy reflects a weakness of the organisations that claim to represent workers. Union Unite echoed the view that to get to a stage where staff walk out, it effectively means that there has been a breakdown in communications, and also that pay remains the most common cause of industrial action.

The number of strikes was record at 101 last year. However, ONS analysis of the data reveals that instead of a large number of small scale strikes, “large-scale stoppages have become more common” like the workplace dispute of junior doctors’ grievances over changes to their contracts.

Since 2008 the impact of financial crisis and redundancy laid the ground for a long-term decline in willingness among staff to walk out over pay. Wider economic uncertainty meant workers felt they have less bargaining power and simply put up with what they saw as poor pay.

“Strikes are far less common these days and tend to be short, with going on strike always a last resort when bosses refuse to negotiate or compromise,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC general-secretary.

In the last decade, 2011 proved the worst year for labour disputes, when public sector workers staged a number of stoppages over controversial pension changes – some 1.39 million working days calculated as lost. And regardless of the demand, whenever there is a national dispute, from fringe Trotskyist groups for the TUC to get off its kneels and call a General Strike, that possibility is but a pipe dream. There is a misplaced nostalgia for we are unlikely to see a sudden surge in workers picking up placards and standing around blazing braziers as was a frequent sight in the 1970s and 1980s. Unions have seen a steady reduction in their membership for decades

Employees in professional occupations were more likely to be trade union members than other employees. Employees in the professional occupations account for 37.3% of union members, a cavet to that is new classification to compile the statistics , among other changes, moved nurses and midwives, and therapy professionals, both relatively highly unionised occupations, into the professional group.

However, the changing profile of a trade unionists is reflected in the observation that the proportion of employees who were trade union members was greater for people with a higher qualification, such as a degree, compared with those with lower level qualifications, or no qualifications. Nearly a third of university graduates would be union members such as teachers in the education sector.

In 2015, 3.80 million public sector employees belonged to a union in the UK, In the private sector, there were 2.7 million members. Current membership levels are well below the peak of over 13 million in 1979. The proportion of employees who were trade union members was at 24.7% in 2015. This is the lowest rate of trade union membership recorded since 1995.

Trade unions, like British society, has an aging membership profile with about 39% of trade union member employees aged over 50 in 2015, while only 28% of employees are in this age group. The proportion of trade union members aged below 50 has fallen since 1995, whilst the proportion aged above 50 has increased.

[Trade Union Membership 2015: Statistical Bulletin]

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/525938/Trade_Union_Membership_2015_-_Statistical_Bulletin.pdf

The Decline in Unionisation

Heavy industry, which was heavily unionised, has virtually disappeared with the switch into services. The rate of union membership in manufacturing, which has traditionally been seen as a high union membership industry, has fallen substantially in recent years to 16.8% in 2015.

The long-term trend for a much lower proportion of private sector employees who are trade union members, relative to the public sector, continues.

Many services companies are smaller businesses where employee relations tend to be informal and staff are more amenable to the company’s ethos and control and smaller businesses are more likely to strike individual pay deals than implement the corporate-union negotiated settlements. Services jobs can also be seen as more transitory, with a threat that there is a ready supply of people lining up to take positions and other jobs are available, meaning staff would rather put up with a difficult situation or simply go find a better job than go to the trouble of striking. Accommodation and food services had the lowest union membership at 3.5%.

The likelihood of belonging to a trade union varies substantially by sector. Employees in industries with higher proportions of public sector workers are more likely to belong to trade unions, including the ‘public administration and defence’ and ‘education’ industries.

Rather than huge workplaces, modern business can also tend to be more dispersed – such as a large retailer with lots of outlets each employing only a handful of staff – making it less likely for issues to spread to large portions of the workforce, taking it to a point where there is anger on such a scale to drive a ballot for industrial action. Union membership is more likely to be an insurance premium than a commitment to the collectivist solidarity philosophy. Unions are defence mechanism not vehicles for social advancement other than in the realm of pay and conditions at the workplace. It is about “People Defending Themselves”.

Employee Engagement

Grievances are also going underground . Rather than strike, workers just disengage, doing their job but without any motivation apart from getting paid.

This raises another worry: Britain’s low productivity rate:

“The persistent weakness in productivity has puzzled economists and there are many alternative theories to explain it, including: weakness in investment that has reduced the quality of equipment employees are working with; the banking crisis leading to a lack of lending to more productive firms; employees within firms being moved to less productive roles; and slowing rates of innovation and discovery. None is sufficient on its own to explain entirely what has happened, making it difficult to predict when and if productivity growth will return to pre-crisis rates of growth.”

[Daniel Harari, Productivity in the UK. House of Commons Briefing Paper. Number 06492, 27 April 2017]

It is important to note that changes in labour productivity may be driven by a number of other factors, many of which have little to do with the innate qualities or efforts of employees.

YETfun-at-work

Perhaps it is personal: “People Defending Themselves”. New technology in the office environment allows for plenty of diversion from the task at hand, a victim to click-bait interests, browsing before shopping, online bookings and the ubiquitous addiction to social media – all eat into company time.

Elsewhere, work remains social – talking about the weather, the telly, spouting recycled sport trivial – the coffee break, the paralysing drama of the printer paper jam, awaiting deliveries – all see the clock tick by and work does get done but the intensity, the rhythm of work diluted, slowed to manageable proportions. Monetary reward – pay, bonuses, etc – is the advertised currency of reward for work (supposedly as a company’s failings are seldom reflected in cuts to directors rewards) then a pay cut – albeit freeze or inflation induced – should be matched by a decline in output per hour worked as being paid less to do more has little appeal.

Understand that we should take pride that

“International comparisons of labour productivity show that the UK was ranked fifth of the G7 countries, with Germany top and Japan bottom. In 2015, UK productivity was 19 percentage points below the rest of the G7 average, the same as in 2014 and the widest productivity gap since at least 1995 (when the data series began).” Harari 2017

Read it another way: labour exploitation is less effective. Resistance to Labour being used simply as labour more successful: “People Defending Themselves”. In the ‘Command and control’ structure that employees operate – not those over-priced artisans servicing the luxury market of people with money and little taste nor those professions of creative freedom with its glided caged illusions – but in the work place where social relations are dictated by assigned roles, there the human conflict is borne – not to let the bastards grind you down. Refusing to work overtime, applying health & Safety requirements , working to contract without goodwill all impacts upon the work environment because employers need willingness and people missing legitimate work breaks, a shorter lunch, that ten minutes to finish a task. There is the resilience of resistance expressed in small acts of defiance, shaving away the working minutes in non-productive activity. The alienation from the workplace, not to let the workplace dictate who you are – me, I’m a model/ a lawyer/ a train driver/ student – not to identify with the means or mechanisms you use to acquire social substance. The company uniform is something you discard at the end of the shift. Charge your phone at work and no thought of quilt crosses your mind. It’s just one of those things, of no little consequences or another mental brick in the wall?

And, yes this was written at work.

34. On Reading JMP

Before 1988 Maoism did not exist” is JMP’s opening for his Continuity and Rupture. The bookseller in Waterstone described it as ‘niche reading’ when he failed to locate any copies. But then Foyles underlined its reputation (damm it!) by having two copies of its shelves. Indeed, JMP’s exploration of ‘philosophy in the maoist terrain’ is unfortunately a minority interest, and this post reflects one engagement with a text that implies a challenge to the existing approach to an understanding of what one had been schooled in as Mao Zedong Thought.Paris

The object is not a sematic shift, but emphasis on the significance of the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist politics that arose in opposition to a politics that had reached its limits. JMP may be over generous in his description of the RCLB being “temporarily able to pull the masses into its orbit” as it launch one of the first significant critique in Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement; it certainly did not feel that churning out the duplicated pages of its first edition in the 2nd floor stock room of New Era Books – its improved revised 2nd edition arguing to a newer generation, with a tighter universalist relevance.

There were, of course, references to ‘maoist’ and ‘maoism’ prior to the 1980s – these were “conceptually incoherent” associated with a vague understanding of the Chinese Revolution – a Marxism practiced by the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong. Portrayed (initially by supporters and opponents alike?) as Stalinism with Chinese characteristic and limited (geographically and) historically to the first half of the 20th Century.

Inside China, Maoism was never a term promoted or sanctioned; at best, the continuity with western Marxism was expressed in the formula of Marxism-Leninism-Mao (TseTung) Zedong Thought. The idea of universalist relevance saw a vogue for the term in the 1960s/70s but many who employed it – self-identification with it – “erupted only to spectacularly disintegrate or slowly degenerate” –   20th Century International Maoism proved to be a term (or aspiration) more than a constructed movement of like-minded activists and organisations.

JMP argues that it was at the end of the 1980s – and outside of China – when Maoism began to merge as Maoism proper. The provocative birthdate is suggested as the ideological moment of rupture is given as 1993. The statements of the Peruvian revolutionaries signposted the acknowledgement and recognition as a “third stage” of revolutionary science.

[Readings: Collected Works of Communist Party of Peru: Towards Maoism, and On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism; 1993 Statement Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.]

The Communist Party of Peru (Spanish: Partido Comunista del Perú), commonly referred to as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), produced a theoretical statement that is drawing a line, a boundary, signalling a perception between the previous usages of Maoism and a concept of Maoism that is supposedly new: a theoretical tendency guiding revolution in Peru.

In this account, the onus is on JMP to establish that prior to this “watershed”, those who spoke either of Mao Zedong Thought , or Maoism did not conceptually regard it in terms that had saw it as a higher stage of Marxism. The initial reaction is that it was precisely during the Cultural Revolution that Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong though was promoted, advertised and regarded in that manner.

Having identified key moments in the chrysalis process of the conceptualisation of Maoism as the third and highest stage of Marxism-Leninism, it would need further exploration, certainly as part of a summation, as how far the ideological recasting and categorization of Maoism is an innovation of the theoretical line of the Communist Party of Peru led by former professor of philosophy, Abimael Guzmán, also known by the nom de guerre Chairman Gonzalo.

The conceptualisation of Maoism as the third and highest stage of Marxism-Leninism was evident in the positions of some anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists, and there was the self-identity as a distinct Maoist trend even without, what JMP considers, the theoretical coherence.

“Maoism” was not only identified with the Chinese Revolution but was seen as having a relevance, indeed a model for particular Third World struggles – it was in the “peripheries” that it had its strength. First World adherents and supporters would draw on aspects of their understanding of the struggle in China – key link, criticism-struggle-unity, one divides into two etc. – few adopted “People’s War” perspective – that engagement on a theoretical level was to emerge in the 21st century Maoism.

[Readings: Peking Review]

Clearly Maoism existed as a term prior to 1988, aspects of it were seen as universalist perspective – that engagement on a theoretical level was to emerge in the 21st century Maoism.

Clearly Maoism existed as a term prior to 1988, aspects of it were seen as universalist but JMP contends it did not constitute a “philosophical gaze”.

JMP: “I am interested in examining the general boundaries that have already been established by the most recent conceptual rupture of revolutionary science that labels itself Maoist.”

[Reading: Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan, A Response to the RCP,USA’s May 1st 2012 letter.]

The point made is that Maoism is not simply an addition to Marxism-Leninism. Its relationship is both as building upon, and critiquing that results in a development of the science achieved through a theoretical rupture that redraws the paradigm for revolutionary advance in the new century.

Hence,

Maoism, as a theoretical terrain, is in continuity with the radical kernel of Marxism by the very fact of its theoretical rupture.”

Diversion to one – not untypical – article illustrates the point JMP is arguing.

“The great thought of Mao Tse-Tung is developed Marxism-Leninism; it is Marxism-Leninism at its highest level. It has solved a series of important problems facing the international communist movement, problems which earlier Marxist-Leninists either never encountered or having encountered left unsolved, or were unable to solve in their time. In particular, Mao Tse=Tung Thought has solved the question of continuing to make revolution and preventing the restoration of capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat. It has ushered in a completely new era in the development of Marxism-Leninism – the era of Mao Tsetung’s thought.”

This article reflects the excessive personal praise of the time describing Mao as “the very red sun that shines most brightly in our hearts” and places him as “the authority of the world proletarian struggle in the present era.”

Furthermore, whilst still written within the boundary of ideological continuity, it says of the individual who was Mao Zedong that:

“He has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism with genius, creatively and comprehensively and has brought it to a higher and completely new stage….. and has scale new peaks in the history of the development of Marxism.”

Again it is the personal, note the apostrophe;

“Mao Tse-Tung’s thought is precisely the theoretical basis which guides the thinking of our great, glorious and correct party … it is a universal truth that holds true for the whole world.”

Lin Piao is most associated with promoting the notion that “Mao Tse-tung’s thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse.”

Such sentiments and formulations were to be found throughout the heights of the Cultural revolution in China, and echoed internationally by anti-revisionists of (what was termed in America as) the new communist movement.

It was a standard view from China, and accepted outside of it by revolutionary practitioners, that

“The struggle of the world’s revolutionary people in the present era also proves that only when tasks are done in accordance with Mao Tse-tung’s thought can victory be won. For China to be prosperous and world’s people liberated, we must rely on the great, invincible thought of Mao Tse-tung.”

It was for a relatively brief period that this judgement was proclaimed in Chinese publications and towards the international communist movement. The ‘red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought’ was most prevalent during the ultra-left excess of the Cultural Revolution. While the thought of Mao as the “theoretical authority of the communist movement in the present era” was disseminated, indeed regarded as “our most fundamental and important support” given to the revolutions of the peoples of all countries, the guidance it provided was attributed to the Chairman alone:

“Mao Tse-tung’s thought is one and identical with Marxism-Leninism; it is Marxism-Leninism at a higher level of development. In our era, the study of Mao Tse-tung’s thought is the best way to study Marxism-Leninism.”

It is personal as Lin Piao called upon people to “learn and master Mao Tse-tung’s thought truly without fail, study Chairman Mao’s writings, follow his teachings, act according to his instructions and be his good fighters.”

Sentiments repeated by Hua Guofeng seeking to consolidated his position after Mao’s death in 1976. Sentiments that appealed to a personal loyalty rather than a theoretical canon.

The description of the “great thought of Mao Tse-tung” as a spiritual atom bomb reflected the context of the time. It was a call to unleash the political consciousness to transform society, and underpin those who proclaimed support for Mao.

That propaganda onslaught, ritualised and formulaic, ultimately failed to develop creative study and application of Mao Tse-tung’s thought because it was an instrument in the political task of “establishing absolutely authority of the great supreme commander.”

The benefit to closest-comrade-in-arms, Lin Biao, was to inherit that militarist compliance to hierarchical commands. The dissemination of the red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought all over China and the world may have introduced the revolutionary experience of China to those outside the country, it may have inspired revolutionary aspirations, and it may have illuminate the danger of revisionist degeneration and initiated new revolutionary upsurges – however at that time it was building through the personality cult of Mao something to overcome in the appraisal of late Mao’s theoretical contributions on classes and class struggle during the period of building socialism.

Hsinhua correspondents would frequently report on Mao Tse-tung’s thought as the “beacon light of the world revolution”. The experiences of the Chinese Revolution as recorded in Mao’s writings provided the grounding theory for the revolutionary wars in progress; indispensable textbooks for revolutionaries, the works of Mao were earnestly studied with priority given to study the thought of Mao Tse-tung’s. It is this background and context which JMP (in his prologue) refers to the underdeveloped nature and understanding of ‘Maoism’ prior to 1988.

In 1976 the memorial messages sent on the passing of Chairman Mao by foreign ML parties commonly described him as “the greatest Marxist of the contemporary era.” He was praised as the “great continuer of the cause of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin”.

  • V.G.Wilcox. Peking Review September 30th 1976

The tributes noted “of special significance has been his contribution to the theory of continuing class struggle under socialism in order to bar the door to a revival of capitalism in new forms.” – the struggle against revisionism “to preserve the purity of Marxism-Leninism theory” was equally emphasis. That attribution reflects the understanding that of world historic importance was that he guided the work of building socialism in China by “brilliantly integrating the principles of Marxism-Leninism with the practice of the Chinese revolution.” The Burmese party said of Mao that he “inherited Marxism-Leninism, defended its purity and developed it with Mao Tsetung Thought.” (The lack of apostrophe signifying an upgrade in theoretical status?) (Peking Review September 30th 1976)

Nils Holmberg, veteran communist and translator of the Swedish editions of the Selected Works of Mao TseTung, said that Chairman Mao had made very important contributions in developing Marxism-Leninism. Pal Stegian told a memorial meeting in Norway that Mao’s work “are an eternal contribution to the theory of communism.” (Peking Review 44 October 29th 1976).

The red banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought had been raised by the international movement, yet still seen in terms of expressing the revolutionary line of Chairman Mao. That was the Maoist paradigm in 1976.

19_19_website-red-book-12

Elsewhere “Maoism” was a term that had been used by political opponent like Trotskyists and particularly in attacks from Russian publishing houses on Mao and China’s policies such as Y. Semyonov’s The Bitter Fruit of Maoism – Cultural Revolution and Peking’s Policy in International Affairs (September 1975). But as a term, Maoism was not used, or encouraged within China, and uncommon within the international communist movement during Mao’s lifetime.

When Canadian anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist republished the 1952 “Reader’s Guide to the Marxist Classics” they included an additional section dedicated to Mao Zedong.This volume was originally produced in 1952 for the Communist Party of Great Britain.

A new section was added to the 1980 Canadian edition on Mao Zedong Thought and a subject guide to the works of Mao Zedong.

“Today it has become clear that Mao Zedong has made significant contributions to Marxist-Leninist theory and to the practice of socialist revolution and construction… It is recognition of the importance of Mao Zedong’s contributions that the revolutionary theory of the proletariat is today called Marxism-Leninism-=Mao Zedong Thought.”

 

Likewise with the Study Handbook produced by the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist), consisted of excerpts from the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong.

“Its aim is to bring Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought to all workers who are conscious of the historical mission of their class. This science is the result of 130 years of analysis of the workers’ movement. It sums up the principle lessons and thus serves as a guide for workers in all countries in their struggle for revolution.”

It explained that

“Marxism-Leninism-Mao TseTung Thought has always developed through the struggle against revisionism, which is the attempt made by the bourgeoisie’s agents to pervert communist theory, to deform the basic principles of Marxism and have the workers’ movement follow passively behind the capitalist class.”

Of the Five Heads:5heads

“The principles they formulated are universally applicable to the concrete conditions of the revolution in every country… on the basis of their contributions communist theory is called Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung thought.”

In the transitional period that saw Maoism adopted as the preferred term there were the argument over whether to use Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism – particularly engaging were the contending views expressed by Indian communists. However even when adopted, the concept of Maoism was described in the following terms by CPI (ML) (People’s War),

“Marxism, Leninism and Maoism are thus not separate ideologies, but merely represent the constant growth and advancement of an integral ideology. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the universally applicable and scientific ideology of the proletariat.”

  • History of Marxism Leninism Maoism (2002) New Delhi : New Vistas Publication : 4

The basic premise remains that Mao Zedong Thought is an extension and development of Marxism-Leninism to the present era. This formulation was kept in the publication, Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism republished by the Norwegian Tjen Folket in 2011, and again online in 2014 by the progressive anti-imperialist collective, Massalijn.

In the realm of internet Maoism there were declarations of “the fourth and latest stage of revolutionary science, Maoism ThirdWorldism” that emerged in the blogosphere around 2008. Associated with Monkey Smashes Heaven/ Prairie Fire (again drawing on the rich and variety maoist iconography) it initially build upon Lin Biao’s analogical strategy of the ‘countryside’ surrounding the cities underpinned by a theory12122950_1663091003932724_6146809722157539183_n of Labour aristocracy applied to the entire Global North. This view metamorphosed into the positions of the Leading Light Communist Organisation that, after advancing the argument that “to be a real Maoist today requires going beyond Mao”, came to renounce Maoism. JMP has come nowhere near spinning out of orbit like these individuals. Instead he has argued a case for a Maoism that is not rooted in a kind of seamless succession but a science that responds to the contradictions within life processes and seeks to address them. Reading Continuity and Rupture will not provide you with exam answer solutions but in its intellectual challenge, it can point you in the right direction.

 

33. Enver Praises Mao (1973)

albaniaCR68When we were friends……….

 Mao TseTung’s Birthday Celebrated in Albania

Enver Hoxha’s birthday salutations on the occasion of Mao’s 80th birthday in 1973, made references to … a great theoretician and strategist of the revolution…courageously defended the triumphant doctrine of Marxism-Leninism…. you furthered developed and creatively enriched Marxist-Leninist science in the field of philosophy, the development of the proletarian party, the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary struggle and the struggle against imperialism, and the problems of the construction of the socialist society. Your precepts on continuing the revolution under the conditions of the dictatorship , so as to carry socialist construction to final victory and bar the way to the danger of the restoration of capitalism whatever form it takes it comes from, constitute a valuable contribution, of great international value, to the theory and practice of scientific socialism. Your works are a real revolutionary education for all Marxist-Leninist and working people.”

“The Albanian communists’ and people see in you the glorious leader of the heroic Communist Party of China and of the fraternal Chinese people, the most beloved and respected friend of the Albanian people, the great Marxist-Leninist, and the tested. and unbowed fighter against imperialism, modern revisionism and Soviet social imperialism as well as against reactionaries of all shades”

hoxhachinesestudents

“You, comrade Mao Tse-tung, initiated and personally led the great proletarian cultural revolution, the triumph of which was a great victory, both nationally and internationally for Marxism-Leninism and the cause of socialism and communism. and a source of inspiration to the entire world revolutionary movement”

WHAT WAS HE SAYING IN HIS POLITICAL DIARY in 1973????

An example: In our opinion, the position which China has taken, the course which it is following in its foreign policy is neither right nor revolutionary. It is allowing moments very favourable to the revolution to go by, moments of a grave major crisis for American imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism. The peoples and the Marxist-Leninists will not forgive China for these very dangerous, very negative and harmful stands.

June 30, 1973

The People Will Not Forgive China For These Dangerous Stands. Reflections on China, Vol II 1973 — 1977 :Extracts from the Political Diary. Tirana 1979 pp53-65

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Enver-Hoxha-Reflections-on-China-Vol-2.pdf

At the V.I Lenin Party School Party leaders and leading ideological workers of the regime came together for a seminar that illustrated the ceremonial expectations of any public display , strong on sentiments and the absence of critical inspection.

The head of the Party School, Fiqret Shehu, in her opening address, spoke of comrade Mao Tse-tung’s image as a great revolutionary leader and outstanding Marxist-Leninist theoretician, as a great strategist of the revolution and the closest and most beloved friend of our people.

Comrade Mehmet Shehu’s opening speech reflected the general respect and rhetorical high esteem Mao was held in Albania:

Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s work will shine through the centuries, it will always be a great source of inspiration to the proletariat and people of the whole world, a banner for the world-wide triumph of socialism and communism.”

AlbaniaApril68

Comrade Shehu , like any such speech had the mandatory reference to “the great, everlasting and unbreakable friendship between the Albanian people and the Chinese people, between our two parties and our two countries, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.”

After Mao’s death in September 1976 there was to be a deterioration in that “the steel-like proletarian friendship between the Albanian people and the Chinese people, between the Party of Labour of Albania and the Communist Party of China, between the People’s Republic of Albania and the People’s Republic of China.” China’s aid to Albania was to be unilaterally terminated by China a year after the first ideological attacks against China were published in 1977 in the official newspaper of the Party of Labour of Albania , Zeri I Popullit ‘s editorial, Theory and Practice of the Revolution .Supporters of the Albanian regime condemned the “outrageous great-power chauvinist act of the government of the People’s Republic of China in cutting off aid to the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania” and they often took the opportunity to also outlines rejection of the “theory of the three worlds”. Albanian criticism of China was especially virulent in August 1977, when President Tito visited Peking, Albania later expressed support for Vietnam in its border conflict with Cambodia, which China supported, and the Albanians sided with Vietnam in its brief border war with China.

But the seminar was held in different circumstance, so comrade Hyshi Kapo’s extensive speech contained a laudatory exploration that proclaimed,

The whole glorious history of China over these last 50 years, all the victories of world historic importance which have made the Chinese people a ‘free people, master of their own destiny, and China an impregnable fortress of socialism, are linked with the name, and with the revolutionary ideas and activity of the architect of new socialist China, Chairman Mao Tse-tung.”

The following reports were delivered at the session: Mao Tse-tung, outstanding theoretician and great revolutionary leader by Professor Sotir Manushi, and , Mao Tse-tung on contradictions and the importance of knowing and solving then correctly in revolutionary activity by Dr. Servet Pelllumbi.

Similar sessions were organised at the State university of Tirana and the higher institutions of the country. The 8 Nëntori Publishing House [November 8] prepared and put on sale the new book “On philosophy, art and culture. This volume includes selected pieces from comrade Mao Tse-tung’s works.

The main political speeches were published as an English language supplement to the journal, Albania Today.

AlbaniaToday-1973-06-Sup | Albania Today No.6 1973 Supplement

The 80th Anniversary of Mao TseTung’s Birthday Celebrated in Albania

32. America’s Maoist Mushrooms

Observers of the revolutionary Left in the USA saw around 2016 a flourishing internet presence by the emergence of nearly a dozen collectives in the U.S. which aspire to promote Maoist politics. The newly emerging forces of mainly student and young people organising in local collectives . Far greater details and named individuals are discussed in the polemical documents from the myriad of organisations that have sprung up throughout the US. This post provides the broad contour of developments and issues that have engaged these newly emerging Maoist forces.

NCP(OC) to MCG & beyond

The founding congress of the East coast based New Communist Party (Organising Committee) had been held in early 2013. It described itself dramatically  as “inside the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast”,  a new group of US-based communists established to struggle for the construction of a genuine proletarian revolutionary party guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and equipped with the basic programme of socialist revolution. untitled

These new Maoists drew upon the symbols and iconography of the Chinese Cultural revolution. Clearly internationalist in outlook, it expressed its desire “to learn from the revolutionary and peoples’ struggles presently in India, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Turkey, and other countries”.

The Congress Report (released May 1st) stated, “Delegates began with a sober assessment of the present numbers and minimal influence of communist revolutionaries among the proletariat and oppressed masses in the US.” The NCP (OC) identified the necessity for “the coalescence of the dispersed advanced elements of the class into a revolutionary party”. It clearly saw the need to build the party, and it had national aspirations: “Rather than engaging in wishful thinking for a future party to arise spontaneously out of the mass struggles, every communist has the responsibility to immediately take up and share the effort in the central task of party construction. This is possible only with the organized accumulation of subjective forces for a proletarian revolutionary party guided by MLM.”

It placed its birth within the context of “the decisive defeat of the 1960s-1970s wave of class and nationality struggles. The New Communist Movement, unable to produce a genuine proletarian revolutionary party or at least set the course for the construction of such a party, was co-opted into the left-wing of the state apparatus and dissolved into today’s brokers of capital in Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Fragments of the New Communist Movement also ended up in self-marginalization, as a result of their lack of a mass line practice. Other leading elements of the nationality struggles, as well as groups of anti-imperialist guerrillas, without a clear guiding theory, proletarian party, political strategy for revolution, practice of mass line, and military strategy for People’s War were separated from the masses and easily smashed by the state, leaving in their wake only a scattering of prisoner support committees.” [ Document | Political Resolution, April 30th 2013]

Drawing upon the conceptual heritage expounded most systematically upon in Moufawad-Paul’s Continuity And Rupture and Marxism Leninism Maoism and Mao Tse Tung Thought are not the same by Comrade Ajith , the organisation’s self-identification argued that “to be a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist is not to ‘add up’ the achievements of Marx, Lenin and Mao. Rather, MLM draws out lessons, in the form of ruptures, from the practical experience of the proletariat and the people, concentrated in the events of the Paris Commune, the October Revolution and the Chinese Revolution, in particular the sequence of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In the uniform cloth of history, these events constitute knots of accumulated and intensified contradictions.” There was a conscious stress on the ideological basis for guiding the organisation’s practice, and within the year the founding text, Principles of Unity, was criticised for containing :

…an empiricist distortion of Maoism, in which we conceived Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as a simple and undifferentiated addition of the various historical achievements of Marx, Lenin, and Mao. This descriptive—that is, ideological—account of Maoism …. We are now approaching the problem of constructing a genuine theoretical concept of Maoism via the opposite path, namely: what are the ruptures through which Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is constituted?     [Document | Maoist Communist Group Founding Statement 2014]

ncp lc

IDENTITY POLITICS

In an echo of the “Fight Revisionism, Fight Self” subjective line that was evident in the Cultural Revolution, and the recognition that the “personal is political”, the organisation adopted resolution against patriarchy, and ratified its Principles of Unity upholding a proletarian feminist position, and a resolution on the queer struggle.” Its involvement in identity politics and around the campaign for Trans rights identified the continuing tread of western Maoists involvement in the “personal is political” that initially surfaced in the Ninteen Sixties Women’s Movement and Gay Rights campaigning. The caveat to support was that while “identity politics names real forms of oppression, because it lacks a materialist analysis, identity politics cannot formulate an effective practice to challenge the basis of oppression. Thus it lapses into liberalism, proscribing recognition and reform where we need revolutionary advance.” Course_Correction (2016)]

In 21st Century Maoism the intensity of the line struggle was more to the fore and given an ideological importance that had been underplayed in earlier organisations and parties. The inability to address the liberatory rhetoric with the practice of individuals came to paralysis and split the new Maoist trend in the US.  [ The positions against patriarchy were explained in a text accompanying the Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign, July 13, 2013: and Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy March 2014.  ]

Following the First Congress, the NCP(OC) was involved in two major contradictions;

that with a student organisation it influenced, and within ten months, the organisation “expelled multiple founding members in multiple cities for male chauvinism. The expulsions and related discussions consumed much of the internal activity of the organization. This rendered the central organs and particular units otherwise dysfunctional for substantial periods of time”.

The error of commandism was  said to be applied with the New York based Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, although this was explained as: “the problem of our lack of effectiveness was referable to a bureaucratic-technical separation rather than so-called ‘militarization’ or ‘authoritarian control.’”  [ On Rectifying Past errors: Document by the New York City branch of the NCP(OC) Regarding the recent split in our organisation. March 2014]

Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee RSCC Document – was founded in February 2012 as an organization uniting revolutionary-minded youth and student activists throughout the City University New York’s 24 colleges and graduate schools located across New York City’s five boroughs. It identified as an anti-capitalistic, anti-imperialist and Proletarian Feminist organization. Its activism included CUNY student protesters filmed confronting former four-star General and Director of the CIA, David Petraeus on the streets in September 2013. In the midst of internal patriachical struggles, the RSCC secretariat disintegrated as four out of five members got suspended from CUNY. It dissolved in April 2016.

In February 2014 a faction resigned its membership in the New Communist Party (Organizing Committee). It charged the NCP(OC) leadership with an inability to resolve the issues without reverting to a bureaucratic suppression of the isues e.g. “an ex-member of the OC harassed several Maoists in the US, for which the OC only issued apologies to the victims they were favorable to, neglecting to take responsibility and apologize to those they personally disliked”. The party building orientation and exercise of mass line was set aside for “it acted as a clandestine organization and objectively set on the path of building a militarized party”. There were charges bad political practices, of violating democratic procedure and respect for organisational independence e.g. “An OC member sat in on and participated in an entire RSCC meeting without being a member with democratic rights in the organization.” The contradictions between those, who would work as the Liaison Committee, and the NCP(OC) had been “careful to identify the principal contradiction so as to avoid making these mistakes in the future. The issue is that the mass leaders, all of proletarian background, were subjected to the incorrect line of the formal leadership, who are of petit-bourgeois backgrounds. While we all constitute the vanguard of the proletariat, our social classes will inform our political lines. Thus, the leadership put into command the politics of a Gonzaloite deviation (which failed in Peru).”            

[Preliminary Statement of the NCP(LC) Regarding The Split With The NCP(OC) March 7th 2014]

Gonzaloite Deviation?

March 2014 , Maosoleum website declared itself an organ of the New Communist Party (Liaison Committee), NCP(LC) Documents “ formed after a split with the NCP(OC) on the basis of a line struggle between a Gonzaloite deviation and Maoism proper… We now span several cities and are leading mass work in NYC guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism through our student mass organization, the  Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC) and internet mass organization, Maosoleum.” There was National Liaison between the NYC Branch, Kansas City and Red Guards – Los Angeles.

Liaison Committee was said to be formed due to fundamental differences over the question of party building: “Our main difference was that whereas the OC chose to pursue a path of clandestinity with an insular focus, we argued for a need to be open to the masses and to have an outward focus to uniting the advanced.”  NCP (LC) Document TOWARDS A MAOIST PARTY

When challenged it was the PCP who first put forward Maoism as a higher stage of Marxism, and were struggling for a decade for the RIM and later others to take that position, so “What exactly do you mean by gonzaloite deviation?”

maosoleum replied, We have described Gonzaloism thus:

1) Commandism – “Jefatura” line

2) Armed Monolithic Party – Party argued as clandestine by nature under all conditions and the armed struggle as the primary organizational goal of the revolutionary party – no separation between army and party, and no separation between politics and gun, but a unified command. This is opposed to Mao’s “politics in command” perspective, and Lenin’s criticism of Blanquism, which is the origin of the idea of the unification of the military and political.

3) Unified People’s War – the Hoxhaist perspective, counterpoised to protracted people’s war – we touch upon this in our article “What is Protracted People’s War?”

4) Third period revivalism without the actual social force – a form of left opportunism. Most clear in the declaration of governments like Venezuela’s as social-fascist.

Interestingly, Chairman Gonzalo rejected the universality of Pensamiento Gonzalo making it clear it was an application of M-L-M to Peruvian conditions and nothing more, and indeed Gonzaloism is more identified with the Proseguir line in the PCP, the line that Gonzalo and Asumir rejected.

While the internal matters of the PCP are their and only theirs, we do feel that the application of these principles as universals is an error. Of course, some of the Gonzaloites deny they are Gonzaloites, but for us it shorthand for that set of politics which we consider not to be a correct application of M-L-M to the conditions of the USA today.

Gonzalo and the PCP stand in our history as shining examples of struggle, but ultimately, as we point out, defined principally by historical failure. While even in historical failure there are successful and positive experiences, it is dogmato-revisionism to embrace without summation and criticism those experiences. A full summation of the Peruvian experience has not been made, but we have made a partial summation of its application to our conditions, and identified Gonzaloism as a left opportunist deviation, and we would be liberal if we didn’t combat it.

PAPER POLICIES Vs REAL LIFE PROBLEMS

A critique of the internal life of the NCP(OC) summarised the dysfunctionality of the organisation and political liberalism:

The NCP(OC) has been decimated and rendered invalid as a real Organizing Committee, and instead has alienated and isolated itself from the masses, including the masses of women, queers, and other people directly oppressed by patriarchy, not principally because it incorrectly handles the contradictions among the people, but because it has assumed a line of whateverism and commandism in its internal functioning, refuse to make self-criticism in good faith, and uses the communist struggle against patriarchy as an opportunist shield to avoid dealing with all other questions, including the patriarchal behavior on the part of its leadership on the basis of alleged allegiance to proletarian feminism.

[NCP(LC) A response to the NCP(OC): Gender Whateverism is not Proletarian Feminism. March 2014 ]

The NY Branch was said to have sought to promote its initial admonitions against patriarchal behaviour, issued in 2014 as the correct basis for resolving the contradictions that surfaced in the LC prior to its dissolution. [NCP (OC) “Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy,” March 5, 2014.]

The remnant of the NCP(OC) quickly become rebadged as the Maoist Communist Group. From its perspective, the primary contradiction driving the split of the “Liaison Committee” from the New Communist Party-Organizing Committee (NCP-OC), which led to the formation of the Maoist Communist Group (MCG), was the refusal of the LC to accept the expulsion of individuals guilty of misogynist violence. Clearly, in the experiences of the NCP(LC) and MCG(NY) was illustrated the phenomenon of self-declared leaders of the movement , divorced from the actual needs of organizations and of the class struggle. For a while the NCP(Liaison Committee) seemed to be the more relevant, effective organization. However, after a polemic authored by an autonomous Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective based in Texas, the Red Guards AustinRed Guards Austin Documents We Will Not Integrate into a Burning House: Polemic on Bad Gender Practice in the Liaison Committee for a New Communist Party (NCP-LC) April 2016, it became clear that the some members of the Secretariat were clearly guilty of sexual assault while others covered for them. It came out the organization was being run in a commandist, patriarchal, and dogmatic direction. This formed only the most apparent aspect of a fundamentally reactionary and patriarchal political and ideological line, which resulted in the implosion of the Liaison Committee. The NCP(Liaison Committee) disbanded.

In April 2016, following the dissolution of the New Communist Party – Liason Committee (NCP-LC), the Boston and Richmond branches of the Maoist Communist Group (MCG) published a document titled “The Externalization of the Anti-Revisionist Struggle is the Negation of Proletarian Politics”. Although this document was an attempt to sum up the disagreements that the Boston and Richmond branches had developed with the New York branch, further criticism from Boston MCG of the Richmond contribution to the joint text drew attention to its opposition to ‘Left Adventurism’ and concern of drawing upon the anti-maoist politics of the Brigate Rosse.

[The_Externalization  and   Self-Criticism: Unprincipled Struggle and ‘The Externalization’ Piece July 2016]

Following these experiences, the NCP (OC) was dissolved upon the founding of the Maoist Communist Group, the “new name reflects the central task of the moment: ideological consolidation, and in particular, the forging of a principled unity regarding what we mean by ‘Maoism.’ Only in this way can we lay the foundation on which a Maoist Communist Party can be built.” MCG in action : “Our tactical slogan, Struggle Committees Everywhere!, guides our mass work. We support the organization of struggle committees – autonomous people’s organizations – in neighborhoods, buildings, workplaces and schools, everywhere that the people are engaged in struggles against the class enemy. We seek to unite the broad masses in mass organizations under proletarian leadership. The development of the advanced into communist cores will form the basis of a future party.” https://maoistcommunistgroup.com/about-mcg/

dot-commie

To summarise , and draw upon Revleft cyberchat : it suggested that while it may have appeared that the work of NCP(OC) and -(LC) was leading the development of Maoist politics in the US, the adoption of Maoist theory had gained momentum beyond what either of those organisations had accomplished, as many of the self-identified communists out of this new generation were also self-identified Maoists.

The largest Maoist presence was in NYC however their network of mass organizations and fronts extended far beyond. RSCC Philly had a network of probably around 30-40 people in its various organizations (SJP, Students Without Borders) while it had a core membership of about a dozen people. NYC RSCC alone had 40 members which commanded the SJP’s and SWB along with a number of other organizations and network, at their height the total amount of students in organizations controlled by the NYC branch was at least 100 probably more. The Red Guards in Austin, LA and also the Kansas City Progressive Youth Organization was affiliated with them. Saying it was one of the largest US party building attempts in the 21st century is not inaccurate.

The split between LC & MCG saw repudiation of NCP(OC) practice by both organisations, as well as polemical criticism by the city collectives. A Summation of the Kansas City Revolutionary Collective’s Experience with the Former NCP(LC) was published as Bury the Ashes .

It may be sad that the NCPs are gone, but given the behaviour of some of the leadership, the organisations needed to die and it is clear that the Maoist movement lives on without them. While there may be no single Maoist national organization,  there are developing organizations in different parts of the country: the Progressive Youth Organizations in Kansas City [ StP Kansas City Document ] or St Louis (both founded by Maoists), or the Red Guards in LA and Texas. Although relationships between these groups have seen deterioration with polemical exchanges between Red Guards Austin and  Saint Louis Revolutionary Collective .

The Red Guards Austin do not seem to have many problems with misogyny but within RSCC and the LC-NCP it more or less allowed people with enough charismatic authority to claim a mastery of feminism while very few people were educated in what misogny actually looked like on an intrapersonal level. For example there were constant comments from the male comrades about how the woman comrades “Weren’t politically developed enough” . One Philly RSCC comrade noted that although RSCC had near gender parity (for those not familiar, a close to 50/50 ratio of men and woman) strangley the woman comrades would almost never talk. In an observation – not restricted to the US left experience – the reluctance to talking in political circumstances because of male cultural dominance. It is not an uncommon remark for ex-rscc woman to make.

The Red Guards Austin operate a Serve the People programme which consists in providing people free things and trying to get them to read communist literature. When described as red charity, RGA comrades will respond that it is all quite political and that also they interview residents to ask what their concern is.

The anti-gentrification work targets small business owners who are perceived as gentrifiers for example they are targeting a cafe for offering cat cuddling services.

Red Guards Los Angles has similar efforts and have similar practice in that they have Serve the People programs and their anti-gentrification work “Save Boyle Heights” which largely consists in disrupting art venues which open up in the area and propagandizing against “bourgeois art” and artists.

 RGLA , like other groups elsewhere are challenging the settled Left – the youthful idealism, energy and crass militancy and ideological fervour is reminiscent of their role models from the Cultural Revolution , and they evoke similar responses. Hence the ‘Right To rebel’ entitlement to challenge existing politically forces e.g. the political attacks in Boyle Heights expressed in the article Be with the people, stand against Carlos Montes! By Red Guards – Los Angeles:

“Long-time Chicano activist, former Brown Beret, current member of Centro Community Service Organization and supporter or member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back) (FRSO-FB), Carlos Montes has repeatedly attacked members and supporters of Red Guards – Los Angeles (RGLA) through slander, libel, consistent snitch-jacketing (which appears to be standard protocol within FRSO-FB) and even sending his supporters to physically intimidate our supporters and wreck RGLA-affiliated events or actions.”

One cybergossip opinion was that “They are active that is no doubt and they orient towards the correct people, the working class neighborhoods of Austin. However their political work is crude volunteerism maintained by hyper discipline which I can not imagine is healthy. Some of these comrades do political work from 8 in the morning till 6 or 7. All work and no play does a good gonzaloite make apparently. Speaking of such I’d argue that most of their volunteerism stems from their gonzalo admiration. All of their organizations are bent to propagating towards people and recruiting them yes but I don’t see attempts at organizing the working poor. Organizing on behalf of them yes, by giving them free food and harassing gentrifies but not organizing them into tenant unions, solidarity networks, trade unions, or any other form of organizations where average people fight for their issues by themselves for themselves.”

Maoist Communist Group, the other attempt at building a Maoist Party. Unlike the LC-NCP and to a lesser extent the Red Guards and even a lesser extent the Progressive Youth Organisations, they are quite quiet about themselves. The other branches accused them of not communicating with them: “ the NYC chaps are a bit recluse”.  Yet in their defence, the  largest concentration of members in NYC MCG did put a great deal of emphasis on summing up experience, engaging in protracted mass work, and forging a mass political line out of that mass work, rather than simply undertaking propaganda around a pre-existing political line.  see Maoist Communist Group’s Three Documents that briefly reviews the split.

 The MCG Richmond branch had ran the now defuncted website blog signalfire.org that publicised  struggles worldwide, particularly the CPI(M) in India, and were involved in prison support work . And the MCG Boston branch evolved into “Mass Proletariat” Mass Proletariat Document . It published a document which was a veiled jab at Red Guard Austin. RGA responded and they have remained quiet ever since disdaining online communication as they do.

Other city collectives such as Kansas City Revolutionary Collective self-identify as Maoist propaganda group. This is the cadre formation that formed after the dissolution of the LC. Previously the Progressive Youth Organization was led by a person who was supposed to be the local liaison to the national LC although the LC did not have a branch in Kansas.

May 1st, 2016.

“Today we are excited to announce the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective in the Kansas City metropolitan area: The Kansas City Revolutionary Collective (KCRC). This is no small announcement as Kansas City has been without a Communist movement for some time now.”

The St Louis Progressive Student Organization  formed a Revolutionary Collective instead of an Red Guard grouping. It is suggested that the choice of group name partly reflects a political orientation in that ‘Revolutionary collectives ‘ are perceived as generally not holding as high an esteem for President Gonzalo as the Red Guard Austin and Red Guard LA have. The Red Guards – Philadelphia even include an excerpt from the Fundamental Documents issued by the Communist Party of Peru in 1988, along with Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! as representing the basis for ideological unity of Red Guards – Philadelphia.

Still, other third stage Marxism-Leninism-Maoism formations are appearing in TacomaTacoma Maoist Collective Document] Queen City [ Queen City Maoist Collective Document] and Tampa [Tampa Maoist CollectiveDocument] While these groups are small in membership and reach, they are active groups facing up to the challenge of class struggle in modern America; as yet it is probably too early to claim a new Maoist tide is rising in the US, but the resistance is growing.

 

 

APPENDIX : NCP(OC) 2013 Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign

Like other bourgeois and reactionary ideologies that must be continuously defeated through two-line struggle, the patriarchal values and male chauvinist practices that dominate this society have their reflection inside the communist movement and within communist organizations. They must be confronted and overcome through class struggle, inner-organization struggle, and inner-struggle. Like those who “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag,” groups, tendencies, and individuals can pose intellectually as feminists while at the same time failing to politicize women, commodifying and objectifying women, and engaging in abusive male chauvinist behavior.

Maoists are not afraid of criticism. Truthful criticism from others should be embraced without anger, in order to strengthen oneself, to improve one’s practice, and to better serve the people and the proletarian revolution. Self-criticism should be made openly and willingly whenever one has done wrong, without prompting by comrades and the masses. There is no place for the individualist ego, a belief in one’s own self-importance that throws up a defensive barrier in the face of truthful criticism, refuses to conduct genuine self-criticism and hides one’s mistakes, and evades rectification.

Practicing criticism and self-criticism, communists in general are guided by the principle that we do not fear criticism “because we are Marxists, the truth is on our side, and the basic masses, the workers and peasants, are on our side” (Mao Zedong).

For our anti-patriarchy rectification campaign, the NCP (OC) in particular is guided by our Resolution Against Patriarchy stating: “We call upon communists who have made patriarchal errors in their lives to carry out honest accounting, self-criticism, and rectification of their mistakes.”

In the inner-organization struggle and inner-struggle against patriarchy, we have noticed several manifestations of liberalism that must be identified and rooted out. We point these out here because they prevail among many communists in the US and are also by no means exclusive to communists.

-Failing to criticize male chauvinism among comrades when it appears that there are no immediate political consequences for lack of criticism or that there are negative social consequences for making criticisms.

-Consistently giving lower priority to the struggle against patriarchy, especially to the inner-struggle to transform oneself in practice into a proletarian feminist, even though this is a central and strategic question for the socialist revolution in the US. The communist movement in this country largely exists as a scattering of committees and advanced individuals. In such a landscape, unremolded male chauvinist thinking and practice in even a single individual has an exaggerated effect and can function as an obstacle to the immediate advance of the movement.

-Discussing the need for revolutionary women’s organizations in the abstract, or pointing to women’s mass organizations in other countries as models of what need to be built in the US, when the main problem in a particular situation centers instead on the thinking and practice of individual communists. This involves reducing the women’s question from a political matter into simply an organizational matter. It is an easy way to avoid the difficult process of reflecting on individual beliefs and actions, their origins in social practice and life experiences, and what needs to be done to consciously transform them.

-Posturing as a militant against women’s oppression and even verbalizing extreme positions when there is a broad injustice in society against women, but becoming guarded when one’s own practice is questioned or one’s own patriarchal privileges are at stake.

-Resting content with areas of political work that have over a period of many years achieved little to nothing in the development of women’s participation and leadership as communists. Justifying this prolonged stagnation with the notion that politics is traditionally an arena for men of the ruling classes and that it will take a long time to change this situation, failing to recognize that Maoists struggling in far more unfavorable conditions have made far greater advances.

-Failing to study the Marxist position on the women’s question, despite years of being a communist and gaining a theoretical and historical grasp of many other subjects.

-Resting content with having a familiarity with various contemporary feminist theories, which have little to do with the mobilization, organization, and politicization of the masses of toiling women from a Maoist perspective. Believing that theoretical familiarity with different feminist trends makes one a feminist in practice. Paying lip service to feminism while still using male chauvinist language.

-Promoting images of women engaged in militant struggles far away in other countries, but doing little to nothing to develop the capacity of the women around oneself to take up more and better political work.

-Viewing organizational work, planning, and logistics as “bureaucratism,” preferring informality in their place. Using social settings for political strategizing and decision-making, leading to a “boy’s club” of the self-selected. Consistently failing to follow through on organizational tasks in a timely fashion and being unable to meet deadlines. Consistently conducting work in a frenzied and last-minute manner, without the advance preparations necessary for those who have little experience in political work, have domestic responsibilities, etc. to become full participants.

-Finally, using the process of rectification, and its emphasis on remolding rather than strictly punitive organizational measures (e.g. suspension, expulsion), as a way to in fact evade rectification.

Each of these manifestations of liberalism must be identified by communists and uprooted through inner-organization struggle and inner-struggle. Some of them are likely to be familiar to other revolutionaries, such as anarchists and revolutionary nationalists. Problems of liberalism are compounded by amateurishness, a major shortcoming among communists in the US, many lacking developed experience in revolutionary struggle.

This is not an exhaustive list. It addresses only some of the main types of liberalism among communists and within communist organizations. It is not meant to assess the contradictions confronted in mass work among women, which have their own particularities and deserve a separate summation in their own right, investigating for example how the notion of “sisterhood” in capitalist society often covers up the reality of competitive individualism among women of the oppressed classes and determining how to fight against this.

As its first major internal campaign, the NCP (OC) carries out its Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign to strengthen our organization along the line of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and proletarian feminism. It involves regular criticism and self-criticism that examines individual thinking and practice, behavior in personal relationships, the impact of patriarchal values and male chauvinism on our lives from childhood on, the division of domestic work, and the division of different types of organizational work, e.g. administrative work vs. theoretical work. It also involves a renewed focus in the fields of theory, propaganda, agitation, and struggles on the strategic importance of the battle for women’s emancipation.

As stated in the Resolution Against Patriarchy of our founding congress, “Women of the exploited and oppressed classes must be politicized and organized into a proletarian feminist movement. A revolutionary movement of women must emerge to play a decisive role in the struggles of the proletariat and the oppressed masses, and these struggles must make themselves into indomitable weapons for women’s emancipation.” None of this can be achieved if the initial accumulation of forces is carried out on a basis that allows patriarchal values and male chauvinism to fester and does not continuously wage struggle against liberalism in this area.

  •  

31. Cambodia Declassified

The release of historic American Intelligence  files provides a snapshot of the American intelligence estimates for Cambodia. These files are less descriptions of what is happening and more analysis of what impact and possibilities the situation has for American state interests. They contribute to framing policy responses.

As Wikileaks exposure illustrates, these “Intelligence estimates” are often of a standard reflected in more public journalistic and academic output. The nexus of exchange of information between these overlapping worlds of journalism, scholarship and espionage, playing off each other in the search for foreign news and information, and the many individuals whose employment has travelled between them, would underline the symbiotic relationships that quietly exists between. They constantly talk together. The exchange of information occurs at all levels from a charity workers’ briefing in the Foreign Office to discreet enquires made during breaks at conferences and seminars. Governments have sought to foster extremely close connections with the press. This contact ranges from manipulation, often in the guise of “exclusive” access to “insider” anonymous sources; to deeper connections and infiltrations.

For instance, the French journalist Roger Auque, and France’s Ambassador to Eritrea, posthumously came out as a Mossad agent http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4627312,00.html  .

And in 1987 the South African truth panel exposes how apartheid twisted white media Journalists acted as spies, informants, PR men for racist regime in the on-going battle for “hearts and minds”.

A decade earlier, after leaving The Washington Post, where he uncovered the Watergate scandal working with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein researched the relationship between the CIA and the media during the Cold War for Rolling Stone magazine [“The CIA and the Media” October 20, 1977 http://carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php ]. More than 400 American journalists, including reporters for The New York Times, Associated Press and Reuters, doubled as CIA operatives providing a full range of clandestine services — from simple intelligence-gathering to serving as go-betweens with spies in Communist countries.

We know that Kim Philby, the Soviet double agent, was placed in Beirut by MI6 British intelligence as correspondent for three respectable London media outlets: The Times, The Economist, and The Observer.

And the reporting duties of the Soviet TASS agency and China’s Xinhua may extend beyond the newsworthy. Following the Revolution of April 25, 1974, several Portuguese journalists had reportedly collaborated as Soviet spies, with some KGB agents disguised as journalists from Izvestia or from the Tass and Novosti news agencies.

As a US Congressional committee reported in the early 1970’s, “Full-time correspondents for major U.S. publications have worked concurrently for the CIA, passing along information received in the normal course of their regular jobs and even, on occasion, traveling to otherwise non-newsworthy areas to acquire data.”

The agency also had stringers and other freelancers who collected information and rumors and planted stories in foreign media that were fed into the international news traffic and sometimes appeared in U.S. print and electronic outlets.

Among the Wikileaks files is an American embassy report on Swedish Ambassador KAJ BJORK, visit in early 1976 to PHNOM-PENH at the invitation of the Cambodian government, supplemented by the journalistic comments of Toronto Globe and Mail’s reporter ROSS MUNRO. The “secret cable” notes: WE HAVE OBTAINED ON CONFIDENTIAL BASIS FROM TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL’S ROSS MUNRO COPY OF HIS SEVERAL REPORTS BASED ON TAPE RECORDED INTERVIEW WITH SWEDISH AMBASSADOR TO PEKING KAJ BJORK, ONE OF SEVERAL PEKING-BASED DIPLOMATS JUST RETURNED FROM VISIT TO CAMBODIA. BJORK HAS REPUTATION AS SOLID OBSERVER AND MUNRO IS UNUSUALLY ABLE AND CAREFUL JOURNALIST.  [https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1976PEKING00398_b.html ]

Is it any different today?

So any release of historic files should bring few surprises as the broad strokes are known; the devil is in the nuances and the use the analysis is put too. A declassified intelligence briefing on the simmering border war between Cambodia and Vietnam in July 1978 contained little that could not have been found in a close reading of the mainstream media e.g.

CAMBODIA IN THE SINO-VIETNAMESE DISPUTE
Date: July 25 1978

ORIGIN INR – Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State

1.FOLLOWING IS INR ANALYSIS OF JULY 21 FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

2.CONCLUSIONS

CAMBODIA’S XENOPHOBIC LEADERS ARE CONVINCED THAT THEY ARE IN A STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL WITH THEIR POWERFUL VIETNAMESE NEIGHBOR, AND THUS THEY LOOK TO CHINA, THEIR ONLY REAL FRIEND, FOR SUPPORT. VIETNAM NOW SEEMS COMMITTED TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE POL POT REGIME, AND IT IS QUESTIONABLE HOW FAR THE CHINESE WILL GO TO SAVE IT.

  1. REASONS FOR THE CONFLICT

THE PRESENT CAMBODIAN-VIETNAMESE BORDER WAR HAS LONG ANTECEDENTS. THE CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS SHARE THE TRADITIONAL CAMBODIAN HOSTILITY TOWARD VIETNAM AND FEAR OF VIETNAMESE DOMINATION. –IN 1951 THE INDOCHINA COMMUNIST PARTY, ESTABLISHED BY HO CHI MINH, SPLIT INTO SEPARATE VIETNAMESE, CAMBODIAN, AND LAO COMPONENTS. A SECRET VIETNAMESE PARTY DIRECTIVE OF THAT TIME STATED THAT HANOI “RETAINS THE RIGHT OF SUPERVISION OVER THE ACTIONS OF THE FRATERNAL PARTIES OF LAOS AND CAMBODIA.” –SINCE THE MID-FIFTIES, HANOI HAS BEEN TRAINING SYMPATHETIC CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS TO BECOME HANOI’S HENCHMEN IN CAMBODIA.

–AFTER THE FALL OF SIHANOUK IN 1970, HANOI’S ARMED FORCES BOTH FOUGHT IN CAMBODIA AND ORGANIZED A REVITALIZED CAMBODIAN COMMUNIST PARTY APPARATUS. BY 1972, HOWEVER, POL POT, CAMBODIA’S PRESENT PRIME MINISTER AND PARTY SECRETARY, WAS WARY OF HANOI’S OBJECTIVES AND BEGAN THE FIRST OF MANY PURGES TO REMOVE ALL PRO-VIETNAMESE CAMBODIAN CADRE. LIMITED FIREFIGHTS EVEN BROKE OUT BETWEEN VIETNAMESE AND CAMBODIAN COMMUNIST FORCES.

  1. IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE 1975 VICTORY, THE CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS TOOK THE INITIATIVE TO ASSERT SOVEREIGNTY OVER DISPUTED TERRITORY AND RAPIDLY MOVED ARMED FORCES INTO BORDER AREAS AND OFFSHORE ISLANDS. THE VIETNAMESE RESPONDED WITH AIR AND GROUND ATTACKS AND TOOK POSSESSION OF SEVERAL CONTESTED ISLANDS. FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS BOTH COUNTRIES SETTLED INTO AN UNEASY RELATIONSHIP, SUPERFICIALLY FRATERNAL, BUT FREQUENTLY PUNCTUATED BY ARMED CLASHES ALONG THE BORDER.
  2. THE MILITARY SITUATION

FIGHTING ESCALATED SHARPLY IN THE LATE SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1977, HOWEVER, AND IN DECEMBER OF LAST YEAR VIETNAMESE FORCES ADVANCED INTO EASTERN CAMBODIA ON A LARGE FRONT TO DESTROY KHMER UNITS MENACING VIETNAM’S BORDERS. VIETNAMESE FORCES WITHDREW IN JANUARY 1978 AND REMAINED LARGELY DEFENSIVE THROUGH JUNE WHILE CAMBODIAN UNITS MADE FREQUENT PENETRATIONS INSIDE VIETNAM, SOMETIMES UP TO 30 KILOMETERS.

  1. IN JUNE, VIETNAM, FRUSTRATED BY CONTINUING CAMBODIAN ATTACKS, LAUNCHED AIR AND GROUND FORCES ON ANOTHER OFFENSIVE IN EASTERN AND NORTHEASTERN CAMBODIA. VIETNAMESE UNITS NOW OCCUPY SECTIONS OF KOMPONG CHAM, SVAY RIENG, AND RATANAKIRI PROVINCES JUST INSIDE CAMBODIA, BUT CAMBODIAN FORCES HAVE CONTINUED TO COUNTERATTACK VIGOROUSLY AND ARE STILL ABLE TO PENETRATE VIETNAM.
  2. THE MOST RECENT VIETNAMESE OPERATION APPEARS TO HAVE LIMITED OBJECTIVES SIMILAR TO THAT IN DECEMBER. IT DIFFERS FROM PAST RETALIATORY ATTACKS, HOWEVER, IN THAT VIETNAM IS CALLING FOR THE OVERTHROW OF THE POL POT REGIME AND IS TRAINING AND ASSISTING “PATRIOTIC” CAMBODIAN INSURGENTS APPARENTLY OPERATING THROUGHOUT CAMBODIA’S EASTERN REGION.
  3. VIETNAM HAS 80,000-100,000 TROOPS DEPLOYED ALONG THE BORDER, WHILE CAMBODIA’S ENTIRE ARMED FORCES MAY NUMBER ONLY 100,000. ALTHOUGH CAMBODIA ACQUIRED LONGRANGE FIELD GUNS FROM CHINA IN EARLY 1978, THERE DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN CHINESE ASSISTANCE IN RECENT MONTHS. ACCORDING TO THE ROMANIAN MILITARY ATTACHE IN PEKING, CHINESE MILITARY PERSONNEL IN CAMBODIA NOW NUMBER 6,300 MILITARY INSTRUCTORS AND ADVISORS (AND AROUND 10,000 MILITARY WORKERS AND ENGINEERS), AND MANY CAMBODIANS ARE UNDERGOING MILITARY TRAINING IN CHINA.
  4. VIETNAM’S EFFORTS TO NEGOTIATE VIETNAM HAS TRIED TO PERSUADE CAMBODIA TO NEGOTIATE THE BORDER DISPUTE AND OTHER COUNTRIES TO BRING PRESSURE ON PHNOM PENH TO ENTER TALKS WITH VIETNAM. ON DECEMBER 31, 1977, WHEN VIETNAMESE TROOPS ENTERED CAMBODIA IN FORCE, CAMBODIA BROKE OFF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS AND PUBLICLY ACCUSED HANOI OF ATTEMPTING A COUP AGAINST THE POL POT GOVERNMENT AND OF WANTING TO INCLUDE CAMBODIA WITHIN A VIETNAMESE-DOMINATED INDOCHINA FEDERATION.
  5. ON FEBRUARY 5, 1978, VIETNAM PUBLISHED PROPOSALS FOR A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT:

–AN IMMEDIATE END TO HOSTILITIES;

–WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS TO FIVE KILOMETERS ON EACH SIDE OF THE BORDER;

–A MEETING TO CONCLUDE A TREATY TO SOLVE THE BORDER PROBLEM; AND

–AGREEMENT ON AN INTERNATIONAL GUARANTEE AND SUPERVISION OF THE BORDER.

  1. CAMBODIA REJECTED THIS OFFER AND A SIMILAR ONE IN APRIL. IT COUNTERED THAT VIETNAM MUST WITHDRAW ALL ITS FORCES FROM CAMBODIAN SOIL AND SHOW “GOOD DEEDS” DURING A SEVEN-MONTH COOLING-OFF PERIOD, DURING WHICH TIME PHNOM PENH WOULD EVALUATE HANOI’S SINCERITY. HANOI BRUSHED THIS DEMARCHE ASIDE AS “RIDICULOUS.”
  2. THE REAL STICKING POINT IS NOT THE BORDER ISSUE BUT PHNOM PENH’S DEMAND THAT HANOI ABANDON ITS AMBITION OF “EXPANSION AND ANNEXATION” DESIGNED TO COERCE CAMBODIA INTO A “SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP” DOMINATED BY HANOI. SINCE HANOI DENIES SUCH A GOAL, THERE IS NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT.
  3. PROSPECTS

THE PHNOM PENH GOVERNMENT APPEARS DETERMINED TO CONTINUE FIGHTING DESPITE VIETNAM’S ARMED SUPERIORITY. FOR ITS PART, VIETNAM, HAVING BEEN FORCED INTO AN INCREASINGLY COSTLY WAR, NOW INTENDS TO USE SUFFICIENT MILITARY AND POLITICAL PRESSURE TO BRING DOWN THE POL POT REGIME. HANOI PROBABLY PLANS TO USE PRO-VIETNAM CAMBODIAN INSURGENTS TO ADMINISTER LIBERATED BASES IN EASTERN CAMBODIA AND CHALLENGE PHNOM PENH’S AUTHORITY IN OTHER PROVINCES.

  1. CHINA MAY WELL INCREASE ITS ASSISTANCE TO CAMBODIA BUT WILL PROBABLY NOT SEND MAIN-FORCE UNITS INTO EITHER CAMBODIA OR VIETNAM, IN PART BECAUSE OF CONCERN OVER SOVIET AND WORLD REACTION. CONSEQUENTLY, CHINA WILL BE UNABLE TO GUARANTEE THE SECURITY OF THE PRESENT REGIME.
  2. AS VIETNAMESE PRESSURE MOUNTS, IT WILL BECOME INCREASINGLY LIKELY THAT ELEMENTS WITHIN THE PRESENT KHMER LEADERSHIP WILL OVERTHROW POL POT AND MIGHT SEEK AN ACCOMMODATION WITH THE VIETNAMESE, OR THAT HANOI WILL ENGINEER A SUCCESSFUL COUP AGAINST HIM.
  3. AS THE VIETNAMESE-CAMBODIAN CONFLICT ESCALATES, A PROBLEM FOR BOTH THE ASEAN STATES AND THE US WILL BE:

–MORE CAMBODIANS FLEEING INTO THAILAND (AND VIETNAM), PARTICULARLY IF THE AUTHORITY OF THE POL POT GOVERNMENT BREAKS DOWN; AND

–MORE VIETNAMESE FLEEING THEIR COUNTRY TO AVOID THE DRAFT, THE CONFLICT, AND HARSH INTERNAL CONDITIONS.

  1. THE ASEAN STATES ARE THEN LIKELY TO ADOPT LESS MAGNANIMOUS REFUGEE POLICIES AND TO BECOME MORE INSISTENT THAT THE US RELIEVE THEM OF THE BURDEN.

 

VANCE.

The release of declassified archive material often discloses insight into thinking about rather than details of an event, providing confirmation for what is publically known, such as the “secret bombing” of Cambodia publicised through media reports in the early 1970s [see SNIE 57-73]. With that in mind here are some declassified US Special National Intelligence Estimates [SNIE files] and CIA research reports [ESAU series] on Cambodia from that period.

 

Prince Sihanouk and the New Order in South East Asia (ESAU 25)esau-25Sihnouk

Communism and Cambodia (ESAU 54)esau-54Cambodia

1970 The Outlook for Cambodia (SNIE 57-70)Cambodia outlook 1970

1973 The Short Term prospects for Cambodia [SNIE 57-73]Cambodia 1973

The Short Term prospects for Cambodia Through the Current Dry Season May 1974 [SNIE 57-1-73]Cambodia 1973 (2)

Memorandum To Holders of SNIE 57-1-73Cambodia 1973 (3)

The Short Term prospects for Cambodia Through August 1974 [SNIE 57-1-74]Cambodia 1974

Prospects for Cambodia Through August 1975 [SNIE 57-1-75]Cambodia 1975

***

An earlier exploration of this theme https://woodsmokeblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/declassified-organized-political-warfare/

 

30. The Bradford 12

On July 11th 1981 the news that vanloads of skinheads were planning to invade Bradford’s main Asian area spread. Only a week before coachloads of skinheads had attacked Southall’s Asian community. It was community self-defence, not the police that had protected Southall.

1981 had already witnessed uprisings in Bristol, Brixton, Liverpool and other cities of working class African-Caribbean & Asian youth, joined at times by white youth, angry about poverty, unemployment, racist attacks and police harassment.

On the other side, racist skinhead thugs had invaded Black (mainly African-Caribbean and Asian) communities attacking people on the streets and in their homes.

In Bradford, the recently-formed United Black Youth League (UBYL) responded by mobilising youth and organising in the community’s defence. They prepared petrol bombs, that were never used, in case they were needed to construct ‘a wall of fire’ to keep the fascists out.

Some weeks later the unused petrol bombs were found and 12 activists from the UBYL were arrested in dawn raids across Bradford and charged with conspiracy to make explosives and to cause explosions.

The Twelve: Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.b12poster

A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds initially under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ Over the months the case of the Bradford 12 was publicised and supporters organised. Almost a year later, a trial begun which exposed the scale and intensity of everyday racist violence and the extent of police racism faced by their communities.

Hundreds attended in support of the defendants at the court each day. court

court2

court4

The Defence campaign ensured information bulletins [ b12-leaflet-report-1 b12-leaflet-report-2  b12-leaflet-report3 ] were produced and distributed nationwide, along with daily press releases to highlight the trial. Campaign supporters received internal updates [ 1982-may-bulletin-4 ] and responded to calls to protest. The defence to the charges was community self-defence. The petrol bombs were made ~ We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front. We knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The Defence campaign also saw that reports  [ 1982-stark-report] were compiled and submissions made about the extent of racist violence.  The jury responded by acquitting them– the trial of the Bradford 12 proved the importance of solidarity in the struggle for justice.

 

Source materials on the Bradford 12

cs-october1981  Free the Bradford 12. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.10

cs-december-1981 Bradford 12: Defence Campaign is Growing. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.12

Text of an early leaflet: brad12

FREE THE BRADFORD 12

FREE OUR BROTHERS NOW

Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.

Framed by the Police. Charged with Conspiracy,

Facing LIFE IMPRISONMENT

‘BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY FOUGHT STATE RACISM

Everyday our families are split apart by the racist Immigration Laws. Our homes are raided by Immigration Officers. We are harrassed by the police on the streets and arrested on any pretext. We are criminalised through arbitrary charges confirmed by the racist judiciary. They played a major role in the struggle of Anwar Ditta, Jaswinder Kaur and Nasira Begum against the racist Immigration laws and of Gary Pemberton against the lying West Yorkshire police.

THE BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY DEFENDED THE BLACK COMMUNITY

Our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers are attacked and murdered in the streets. The police do nothing. Our homes and places of worship are burned to the ground, nobody is arrested. Families are burned to death. The murderers and firebombers speak openly of their organised violence against our communities. In Bradford people face racist attacks everyday. For example on July I4th a white gang with a petrol bomb attacked an Asian Schoolboy. On July 24th two Asian homes were gutted by racist firebombers. The only Conspiracy is Police Conspiracy – DROP ALL CHARGES NOW

POLICE STATE IN ACTION

For years Britain has been a police state for black people. This year the repression has been stepped up by paramilitary attacks on the black communities – the army of occupation in Brixton, police vehicles crushing people to death and CS gas bullets in Liverpool and highly developed surveillance techniques all over Britain. In Bradford black youth have faced increased surveillance over the last 18 months. The ‘riots’ were an excuse to arrest our brothers and frame them for conspiracy. While the racist attackers of Asian homes on the 24th of July are out on bail, our brothers are being held in prison and refused bail’.

A Call to Action

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cs-april-1982 Free the Bradford 12 Trial starts April 26. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.4

cs-may-1982 Free the Bradford 12! Class Struggle Vol.6 No.5

cs-june-1982 Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.6

cs-july-1982 Bradford 12 Victory Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.7

b12victorylop July 1982 Self-Defence is no offence! How the Bradford 12 won their freedom. Leeds Other Paper

cs-august-1982 A Victory for Black People. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.8

1983 b12   RCLB on the Bradford 12 Campaign. Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Bulletin

1983  rt-on-b12-trial-copy  Reflecting on the Trial of the Decade: The Bradford 12. Race Today Collective ‘The Struggle of Asian Workers in Britain‘.  

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30 Years on ~ Bradford 12: lessons for organizing

Institute of Race Relations July 28th 2011

An event in London marking the Bradford 12 thirtieth anniversary was a celebration and an education for resistance.

Thirty years ago, on 10 July 1981, twelve young Asians were arrested and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and to endanger life, after a crate of home-made milk-bottle petrol bombs was found. (In fact thirteen were arrested, but the thirteenth, the only woman, Shanaaz Ali, was released without charge.) A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ and hundreds attended the trial each day. But the defence to the charges, not disclosed in advance of the trial so as to surprise the prosecution, was community self-defence. Yes, we made these petrol bombs, the young men said. We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front, against which we knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The jury responded by acquitting them.

The events organised in Bradford and London on 16 and 23 July respectively, by some of the Bradford 12 with the South Asia Solidarity Group, Newham Monitoring Project and CAMPACC, celebrated the victory, but went further, asking what are the lessons for today’s generation, for divided and ravaged communities in a globalised world.

Speakers from the twelve, Shanaaz Ali, the men’s solicitors Ruth Bundey and Gareth Peirce, anti-racist organiser Dave Harrison and writer and campaigner Amrit Wilson spoke in the morning session at the London event, ‘Legacies and lessions’, at SOAS’ Khalili theatre. To an audience of veterans and neophytes, grandparents and young people, they sketched a history of popular, street and police racism, of anti-racist campaigning and community organising at a time when, as Amrit Wilson reminded us, ‘Black’ was a political colour and when multiculturalism came from below, rather than through state policies designed to pit communities against each other in competition for funding. Tariq Mehmood reflected on the importance to the United Black Youth League in 1981 of not seeking public funding, a policy fostering self-reliance and independence which needed to be re-learned by groups addressing today’s challenges, whether of youth criminalisation, deaths in custody, anti-terror policies or Islamophobia. Gareth Peirce observed that for the state, the lessons of the Bradford 12’s victory were clear: if juries could not be relied on to convict, abolish them – by finding administrative alternatives to trial such as control orders; and if acquittals were based on evidence, abolish it – by instituting processes of secret evidence so that those dubbed ‘terrorist’ were not told why, leaving them unable to fight the label and the punitive measures which followed.

In the first afternoon session ‘Resisting the British state’, a wide range of speakers outlined contemporary challenges and campaigns. Mary Pearson of the Troops Out Movement referred to the 5,000 British troops still stationed in northern Ireland. Marcia Rigg spoke of her brother’s death in custody and the mutually supporting and strengthening role of the United Families and Friends Campaign, which is holding its annual march later in the year. Frances Webber of the IRR (who was a Mackenzie friend[1] for one of the Twelve, Tariq Mehmood, during the trial), spoke of the similarities and differences between then and now – from the NF to the EDL; from immigration policies separating families to globalised policies treating people as commodities; from popular and police racism to monoculturalism, thought and speech crimes, and new geographies of racism. Dan Glass of Plane Stupid/So We Stand described the two and a half-year campaign starting with the arrest of 113 climate change activists in a Nottingham hall in 2009, in which he put to good use lessons in campaigning learned from the Bradford 12. (Of the twenty-six charged, the trial of six was abandoned when Mark Kennedy’s role as a police agent provocateur was exposed, and twenty activists’ convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal a week ago.) Dan’s talk illuminated the links between environmental campaigns and anti-racism which the emerging activist group So We Stand is committed to strengthening. Deniz Arbet of the Kurdish Community Centre (KCC) spoke of the struggles of Kurds for recognition and against criminalisation through the anti-terror laws. And Hamja Ahsan gave a moving speech about his brother Talha’s five-year imprisonment for extradition to the US on conspiracy charges (for which no evidence is needed), and read some of Talha’s beautiful poems, written in prison.court3

The last session of the day, ‘Imperialism then and now’, looked beyond our borders. Samarendra Das, from South Asia Solidarity, reported on the role of the Department for International Development (DfID) and of large NGOs in supporting mining corporation Vedanta, whose bauxite mining in India had, he said, led to thousands of deaths of mainly indigenous people through forced displacement, accidents and police operations and famine in a devastated environment. He spoke of the popular struggles which have been supported by international solidarity. Jawad Sabah of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (IDAO) recounted and then demolished the myths behind western intervention in the ‘Arab spring’, and Leila Khaled of the Palestine National Council sent solidarity greetings to round off a stimulating and rewarding day, full of reflections and new connections – the sort of day that sends participants out recharged for resistance.

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/bradford-12-lessons-for-organising/